Episode 24. Kill is Kiss: Pontypool (2008)

Pontypool

Up is down, left is right and black is white in this month’s episode. Tackling the Canadian winter horror film Pontypool, Andrea and Alex talk about national identity, broadcast journalism and how the stories we tell should stop making sense.

REQUIRED READING

Pontypool. Dir Bruce McDonald. 2008.

EXTRA CREDIT

Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extension of Man (1964). The Canadian theorist’s treatise on humanity’s dependence on (and interpretations of) media.

Northrop Frye – Conclusion to a Literary History of Canada (1965). Canadian-ismĀ and the garrison mentality.

Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972) by Margaret Atwood.

Pontypool Changes Everything (2009) by Tony Burgess.

LISTEN

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9 thoughts on “Episode 24. Kill is Kiss: Pontypool (2008)

  1. cbbruuno says:

    Love you guys so much and was really looking forward to this episode but unfortunately it is barely audible. Tried on multiple devices now and have same problem with all.

  2. Great show, as usual. I had sent you an email a while back regarding Pontypool, so I won’t hash of over any of that again. One thing I didn’t mention, largely because it’s likely my personal obsessions spilling over into the real world ( ie, I am a nut bag…)

    Anywhoo, the Kiss/ Kill thing. I am a huge fan of Columbo, the Peter Falk Cop show. One memorable episode featured a villain who was a seventies style Pop – psychologist (as well as film buff). His program revolved around words and the meaning that individuals give them. His theory was something to the effect that we give words power, and that power in turn gives those same words power over us. His process for healing involved stripping the words of their meaning, and thus their control.

    The good doctor uses his dogs to kill a man, training them to respond to a “kill” command that is obscure and devoid of any menace in and of itself (rosebud, actually), that he tricks the victim into saying, thus sealing his doom.

    Anyway, the neat part of this that Columbo catches onto the whole command business when consulting with a dog trainer and animal behaviorist. She has a police dog in training that has a kill command, but in this case the spoken word kill is an instruction to “Kiss”. This leads to a scene of Falk saying Kiss/Kill over and over. In fact, reprogramming the Kill order to a Kiss order becomes the gambit he uses to catch the murderer.

    Not suggesting anything directly connected obviously, but it’s a cool parallel. Come to think of it, that same episode mentions gesalting, appropriate to my thought process I supose…

    Cheers,

    Al

  3. Evil Taylor Hicks says:

    I’d never heard of Pontypool until it came up for this podcast, but damn it was a good watch.

    I was particularly impressed by how the radio station setting allowed the film to feel both epic yet at the same time very small and claustrophobic. We get the sense the world (or at least Pontypool) is ending, but we experience most of it second hand over the phone or through the airwaves. As you mentioned, this was a great subversion of the “show, don’t tell” rule.

    Something that I noticed about Grant Mazzy that may help explain why he never got infected by this word-based plague was that as a talking head radio host, language seems to have already lost most of it’s meaning for him. I noted during his broadcasts that while talking on air, he was also listening to his producer and reading notes being fed to him via computer. He’s so practiced at multitasking with language that he appears to go on autopilot at times, which in this situation could serve as a sort of immunity to a disease that requires you to understand language.

    Thanks so much for recommending this movie. It was a blast!

  4. Kerrima says:

    I found the discussion of definition of “Zombie Movie” interesting. Are they zombies? I’ve heard Assault on Precinct 13 referred to as a zombie movie as well. In some opinions, to classify a “Zombie Movie” it doesn’t even really need the undead or the crazed. Having protagonists isolated in a survival scenario with an assault of antagonists that could breech through at any time makes it a zombie movie. I think the key part to classifying Assault on Precinct 13 was that the antagonists are never given scenes that explain their motives, and the audience is never given the opportunity to sympathise with them. They are just attacking. They may as well be zombies or infected.

  5. dafs says:

    While I generally enjoy the bulk of the movie, the opening is what blew me out of the water. I’m so used to horror movies trying to one up each other with shocking visuals, that having an opening made entirely out of wordplay was such a breath of fresh air.

  6. pangloss says:

    I think Grant Mazzy wasn’t so much immune as he was ‘resistant’; possibly because of his background as a radio voice performer and experience with the ability to measure and deliver words for an intended effect. Notice that the doctor displayed resistance also, despite suffering from the infection, and was able to remain mostly lucid despite occasional relapses into word repetition. Mazzy had enough awareness of the nature of his own infection by the linguistic virus to enable him to eventually defeat it with his “Kill-kiss” denaturing of the dangerous verbal element, thereby also saving his producer.

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