All posts by Eric Young

I have long hair. I smell pleasant for a male. I ache for the opportunity to watch a movie. Especially if it's weird.

CAPSULE: PONTYPOOL (2008)

DIRECTED BY: Bruce McDonald

FEATURING: , Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly

PLOT: Zombies who aren’t really zombies wreak havoc upon the peaceful (i.e. dull) Canadian town of Pontypool. We’re taken through the terror through the perspective of a local FM Zoo Crew DJ and his associates as more and more reports come into the station describing unnaturally violent tendencies in a growing minority of residents possibly infected with some kind of virus.

Still from Pontypool (2008)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Pontypool is merely a zombie movie with a twist. While it’s an admittedly interesting twist, I can’t help but feel that there’s not really a weird sensibility behind this project.  It’s original at times, strikingly original, and the writing is crisper than this little project merited, so it’s definitely a “good ‘un,” but it doesn’t stand out as freaky as much as it does slightly ahead of the curve in the horror genre.

COMMENTS:  Pontypool exists at that strange nether region between genius and camp that had me at “Sunshine Chopper.”  It’s a film that’s joyously in love with itself and the creativity that spawned it.  What’s so special about it? Well, besides the ingenious FM radio motif that anyone who’s ever been stuck in a commute will appreciate, it’s a film about the power of the spoken word.  Here, it’s English.  You see, what’s affecting these violent people is what can best be described as a virus affecting our collective language.  The people infected aren’t trying to kill other people as much as they are wanting to bite the words out of someone else’s mouth.  They’re stricken with a severe communications breakdown, and the mental anguish this inflicts upon said victim causes them to lash out violently.  It’s a really wicked concept, and I’m really quite impressed with the wit and cleverness involved with such an idea.  In the end, it’s really just a zombie movie, and it certainly has its limitations as far as the execution goes.  The soundtrack by Claude Foisy is weak and rather placid, the camerawork is hardly what anyone would call dynamic, and the actors are pretty green with the notable exception of the always-reliable Stephen McHattie.  But it’s definitely worth a shot if you’re a fan of the zombie film; as far as that niche goes, this blows about 65% of its peers out of the water and onto the shore for them to writhe uncontrollably, as is a zombie’s wont.  But as a weird movie, it has a long way to go in the grand scheme of things.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The suspense is carefully built up, but the film starts to get a little sticky, even risible, when it appears that the virus driving people mad is carried by words, specifically English ones, so the survivors in the studio start to converse in Franglais. But for the most part it’s compellingly apocalyptic.”–Philip French, The Observer

ZORG AND ANDY (2009) IS A FILM I JUST SAW AND SUBSEQUENTLY ENJOYED

Still from Zorg & Andy (2009)

If you were at Tromadance a couple weeks back, you probably heard about this little comedy pearl (and, while we’re on the subject, did you see me there? I was the guy in the yellow shirt with the melting, pulsating face). It was a modest success at the festival, and hopefully that appearance leads to a bright future for this film, because I stand before you today a man who, on his first assignment for the amazing 366 Weird Movies, has struck pay-dirt. Zorg and Andy is a low-budget feature with a lot of what makes independent movies so intriguing; the glorious smacking of ambition. I appreciate anything that tries harder than it needs to, and this little movie, made for less than $25,000, truly breaks from its ilk and strives for some really good stuff here. Is it weird? A little. But as long as it’s enjoyable and a tad bit more off-the-beaten-trail than, say, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, isn’t that what counts?

So the movie revolves around the wacky, ZANY antics of our soon-to-be best pal Andy. Andy is a loser who sucks at just about everything, and this is just the way things are for him, and probably will be for the rest of his life. Fortunately, before his loser status gets him kicked out of college, he lands a work-study job at the local museum cleaning artifacts. When he arrives, he meets his overworked handler Jen and she puts him to the task of cleaning a very important artifact rushed to them by the museum director herself. It’s a fertility statue of unknown origin with a strange, let’s call it “protrusion”, sticking out of its forehead. Andy does an almost perfect job of cleaning it and relaxes for a second to congratulate himself, when suddenly a strange and mysterious MILF appears and seduces poor Andy. She asks him for the statue, calling it “Zorg” and saying that she’s been waiting to pick it up. He buys this line, obviously in the throes of her charms, and, in a flash, she leaves with statue in hand. Afterward, he tells Jen all the good work he did with cleaning “Zorg” and giving it to the mysterious lady, and she naturally flips her lid. In a rage, she demands that Andy use what little intelligence he possesses to find the statue and bring it back before the museum director notices what has happened. So it becomes a scramble to find this “Zorg”, unearth why this woman wants it so badly, and do it under the nose of museum staff. Hopefully Andy can show the world that he’s not a total waste of space before it’s too late!

Director Guy Davis gets a thumbs-up from yours truly for making a film of surprising quality with so few resources. Everything about this film belies its cost. The music, mostly composed by a gent named Kevin MacLeod, is very good and exceptionally fitting. It’s flirty, fun, and peppy, marking the bubbly mood of this b-movie comedy. The special effects, almost entirely digital, are passable, using the ol’ standby, day-for-night, like it was about to be outlawed and making the use of some quirky CG for various menaces standing in Andy’s way. The shots are all textbook, and first-time director Davis must be commended for his utilitarian framing and shooting the first-time around, not botching a single scene.

At a light and breezy 62 minutes, Zorg and Andy is the comic equivalent of Binaca; the effects wear off pretty fast and the sensation isn’t as refreshing as you’d like it to be, but it packs a bit of a bite for what its worth. There are some pretty effective gags here for such a budgeted affair. I mean, the statue alone gets me a little bit; it’s so penis-y! Andy himself is played to quite a few laughs, his stupidity spreading thick over the movie like a peanut butter and idiot sandwich.

But one of my favorite gags is one of the things that makes this film on the verge of being weird, and that is the presence of Stuart and The Pig. They’re the two students featured in the picture above, and they’re the gurus of all the goings-on in University news. You might be wondering why The Pig has a papier-mâché pig’s head on. Well, it’s never explained, and he never takes it off; all we know is that he’s a benefactor of Andy and seems to be highly respected around the campus for his rarely-dispensed wisdom. And Stuart is Stuart. ‘Nuff said.

The acting by Andy, played by Scott Ganyo, is fair, verging on good, and I especially enjoyed his confused-but-happy attitude that carries that film on an “aww-garsh” Goofy-like sentiment. Even though he’s a feeb, and a vague jerk, you’ll somehow still like him enough to not want him to die. But not enough for him to get away scot-free, of course. That’s where Jen comes in, played by Kate Rudd. She’s the workaholic boss of Andy who has the distinction of yelling at him for about 3/4 of the film. She’s also passable, but I found her to be a little flat, and I felt like she wasn’t as into it as she could’ve been. I’d definitely give her another chance, but if you end up watching this, you’ll know what I mean when I say, “Eh.”

So run, don’t walk! to the internet to catch this light and fast b-movie surprise. It’s cute, it’s fast, and it’s somewhat odd as far as the plot goes. You won’t find much better for $25,000, and I mean that in the sincerest way possible. I would check this out for Stuart and The Pig alone, though, so I might be insane! You can go to their website at www.zorgandandy.com, where DVDs will be arriving soon, if you’re interested.  [ED: DVDs are now available from Film Baby.] Out of a possible four, all things considered, I give Zorg and Andy 3 stars and a wink/nod from across cyberspace.

Thanks, 366 Weird Movies, for allowing me to get my hands on this. You’re the best, and I hope this will be the first of many more collaborations between you and I!

For more on Eric Young, check out his A Movie A Day review site at http://cinematronica.wordpress.com!