Shut Up or Die!
A Canadian horror film from 2008, set almost entirely inside a radio studio in the town of Pontypool
, Ontario. Swaggering shock jock
Grant Mazzy has just been hired by the local radio station, and this particular day sees the snowstorm from hell descend on Pontypool. After a strange encounter with a nonsensical woman who staggers off into the storm, he gets to work - immediately butting heads with producer Sydney Briar, who's assisted by staff member (and Afghanistan vet) Laurel-Ann Drummond.
Then, the Zombie Apocalypse
happens. Well, kind of. The infection is spread through the English language itself, in certain words (frequently terms of endearment) that get caught in the throats of the infectees and eventually drives them from Madness Mantra-sprouting lunacy to full-on monsters.
Trapped in the snowstorm, the three try to keep track of the situation through the radio, and eventually face a zombie siege.
This film provides examples of:
- Agent Mulder: Mendez, with Mazzy as his curmudgeonly Scully.
- Aliens in Cardiff: Shit goes down in the tiny, rural Ontario town of Pontypool.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The radio station is breached.
- An Aesop: During his anti-establishment tirade, Mazzy concludes that society duly deserved this virus, as it had already perverted language beyond all recognition.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: Subverted. After Grant and Sydney kill the infected girl from Lawrence and the Arabians in self-defense, Grant is reluctant to admit that they both killed her.
- The BBC: Pretty soon, the Pontypool situation becomes headline news.
- Apocalypse How: Presumably class 1 if the infection is contained to the English language; class 2 or 3 if it jumps to other languages. The events during the end credits suggest that a class 1 event is imminent, given that the infection is spreading.
- Bilingual Bonus: The infection is only spread through the English language. Donít want to succumb to the infection? Knowing French or Armenian might help.
- Blood from the Mouth: Happens to Laurel-Ann in very gory fashion.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick:
Mazzy: That was our own Ken Loney... interviewing... a screaming baby... coming from Mary Gault's eldest son's last dying gasps.
- Brownface: The two white kids dressed as bedouin have their faces painted dark brown.
- Brown Note: How the virus is spread.
- Buffy Speak: "I need the Mazzyness."
- Canada, Eh?: The film could easily have taken place anywhere else if not for the way that Canadian bilingualism becomes a major plot element later on.
- Chekhov's Gun: (bemused) "Mrs. French's cat is missing. The signs are posted all over town..." Also the soundbooth, which allows them to hide from Laurel Ann.
- City Mouse: Mazzy is a disgraced shock jock from the big city and is still getting adjusted to life in a tiny rural town.
- Creepy Child: Happens with one of the singers who visits the studio. Later, she appears in full-on zombie form.
- Deadline News: The news crew get's regular updates from their "traffic helicopter" reporter Ken Loney who is stuck out in the middle of the action.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Mazzy's disturbing obituaries are read over stylized black & white footage of the victims. The Stinger is also in monochrome.
- Do Not Go Gentle:
"This is Grant Mazzy for CSLY Radio Nowhere. ...And I'm still here, you cocksuckers."
- Downer Ending: It's a zombie film, what would you expect? Though Grant and Sydney have found a (theoretical) way to cure the infection, the town gets bombed anyway. It doesn't stop the spread, though; the closing credits are a voice-over montage of other radio stations and callers reporting the beginnings of the same strange events in Pontypool. The last lines we hear are the BBC anchor repeating "Pontypool, Pontypool", sounding rather bewildered.
- Gainax Ending: In a quirky twist, Mazzy and Syd's supposed deaths are followed more black & white footage, except they're dressed as a couple of Tarantino-style hipsters (!). The color gradually returns as Mazzy Quips to Black.
- Double Speak: Mendez comes up with this method of evading infection. Mazzy takes it a step further by substituting "kill" for "kiss", and so on.
- Dumbass DJ: Grant behaves like this early on.
- Ear Worm: Intentionally invoked.
- Facial Horror: Infectees chew off their bottom lips in the last throes of the virus.
- Fearful Symmetry: The infected have an unnerving habit of parroting anything you say to them.
- The Film of the Book: Based on the novel Pontypool Changes Everything.
- Fluffy the Terrible: This whole mess began with a flyer for a missing cat, "Honey."
- For Science!: Dr. Mendez is a hilarious, over-the-top nod to grindhouse "scientists" who are fascinated by the infection, and not terribly concerned about the victim.
- Funny Foreigner: John Mendez, Pontypool's very own Dr. Nick. He's currently under suspicion for writing false prescriptions.
- Go Look at the Distraction: Mazzy transmitting a Broken Record recording through the speakers, drawing the mob away from his booth and back outside.
- Gory Discretion Shot: The camera focuses on a wall poster advertising the station as Grant and Sydney kick a twelve-year-old zombie to death.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Mendez, the doctor, sacrifices his life to save Mazzy and Sydney from the infected.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Sort of, when the BBC calls and gets Mazzy on the air. He's usually the one asking the questions...
- Hope Spot: When Grant realizes how the disorder is spread and attempts to broadcast the "cure" over the airwaves.
- Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The film happens entirely in one February 14th, Valentine's Day. This is part of the plot, because as stated above the virus is spread with terms of endearment and baby talk, and lovers are prone to do that on Valentine's Day.
- Infant Immortality: Averted. Mazzy and Sydney are attacked by the youngest member of Lawrence and the Arabians, who showed earlier the signs of infection and are forced to kill her.
- Insane Troll Logic: The cure. In the end, Mazzy gives an impassioned speech filled with this, imploring his audience to "stop making sense."
- It's Probably Nothing: Everybody dismissing the outbreak as an Orson Wellsian hoax. Grant Massy accuses the whole station of "fucking" with him, and stomps out the door. He doesn't get far.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Grant.
- Last Kiss
- Madness Mantra: Subverted. While people infected with the disease speak in madness mantras, the doctor hypothesizes that this is actually their brains trying to fight off the madness by making the diseased words incomprehensible.
- Magic Countdown: The film ends at zero.
- Mind Screw: the stinger after the credits.
- Mr. Exposition: Mendez.
- Nice Hat: Mazzy's stetson hat.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Possibly. Given the way the virus spreads, Sydney theorizes that they might have propagated it through repeated mention of Honey the missing cat. Grant initially thinks she's off her rocker, but later it's suggested she might be right.
- The French warning early in the film ends with Do not translate this message. Sounds like it should have been at the beginning, or repeated throughout the signal.
- Noodle Incident: We're not told what caused Mazzy to get fired from his previous job, but given that he's a shock jock, you can infer that he pissed off the wrong person, or too many of them.
- Not Using the Z Word: The producers stress that the infectees are not zombies, but "conversationalists".
- Oh, Crap: "Do not translate... this... message." Oops.
- Once for Yes, Twice for No: Mazzy and Syd later try scribbling notes to avoid being infected. It doesn't work.
- Our Zombies Are Different: Very. They're not created through bites, but through sound bites: certain words infecting the mind and causing people to go crazy.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Even though its a brief one-way conversation, it's pretty clear that whatever Mazzy did to get himself fired from his previous job, it tainted his prospects so badly that the middle-of-nowhere job of Pontypool was pretty much the only place he could get work.
- Resigned to the Call: Rather than try to save his own skin, Mazzy is determined to broadcast his "cure" on the airwaves.
"People are already
dying, Syd. And we've been playing Muzak
. Do we really want to provide a genocide with elevator music
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Laurel-Ann seems well-adjusted, but she mentions "the situation I brought back in my head," alluding to some possible lingering psychological trauma.
- Shout-Out: A copy of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash is displayed suspiciously prominently in one scene. Snow Crash also deals heavily with infections transmitted via language.
- Snow Means Death
- Spoof Aesop: "Keep an eye out for crazy ladies in the snow."
- Survival Horror: Eventually.
- Technically Living Zombie: Lampshaded by Mazzy, who refers to them as "scared people." Conversely, an MP in the closing credits expresses hope that the mob was already dead when he took them out.
- Too Dumb to Live: Sydney, even knowing how the virus is spread, calls her son and uses several terms of endearment.
- Ultimate Life Form:
It may be...boundless! It may be... a God-bug! Mazzy: Okay
, Dr. Mendez, look: I don't even believe in UFOs, so I'm—I've gotta stop you right there with that "God-bug" thing. Mendez:
Oh, really? Well, that's very sensible because UFOs don't exist
- Understatement: "This is a hell of a shift, Sydney!"
- The Voice: Ken Loney in his Sunshine Chopper. (Actually his Dodge Dart, parked on a hill, while helicopterrotor.wav is piped in.)
- With Catlike Tread: In an amusing sequence, Mazzy and Cyd accidentally trigger "O Canada" to blare from an overhead speaker. Mazzy takes a hammer to it, but the zombies have already been summoned.
- Zombie Apocalypse: A unique take on the trope.
- Zombie Infectee: Numerous. The first one is the woman from the beginning of the film. Laurel-Ann soon becomes one. So does Sydney, but she gets better. Grant has a brief brush with The Virus, but his command of language seems to ensure his immunity.