A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

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1989

New Line Cinema/Heron Communications/Smart Egg Pictures

Directed by Stephen Hopkins

Produced by Robert Shaye and Rupert Harvey

Screenplay by Leslie Bohem

Story by John Skipp, Craig Spector and Leslie Bohem

Based on characters created by Wes Craven

There are those who will say that by the time the series got to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD, Ol’ Freddy Krueger and his antics were getting pretty tired. I don’t agree with that. There’s still a lot of talent hard at work in this one and in a lot of ways, it’s a better story than “The Dream Master” which invoked the rule of Just Go With It as opposed to adequately explaining its plot. At least here in THE DREAM CHILD, screenwriter Leslie Bohem respects the intelligence of the audience by providing a motivation and a reason for Freddy once more coming back to life. And it’s a pretty good idea Freddy has at that. The movie also boasts a Freddy Krueger that’s significantly more sadistic than he was in his earlier movies. The story is darker and the kills more gruesome and personal. In fact, I’d go so far as to say this is the darkest movie of the series so far and will remain so until we get to “New Nightmare”

Life has finally become normal for Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox) She’s been dating Dan (Danny Hassel) the football jock she had a crush on in “The Dream Master” and they’re making plans to travel to Europe for summer vacation after high school graduation. Her dad (Nicholas Mele) has quit drinking and rebuilt a loving, healthy relationship with his daughter. She’s even got a whole new crew of BFF’s. Greta (Erika Anderson) is a leggy, gorgeous aspiring supermodel whose every move is closely monitored by her mother. Mark (Joe Seely) is a geek who plans on being a comic book artist and is madly in love with Greta. Yvonne (Kelly Jo Minter) works as a candy striper at the local hospital.

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Yes, Alice’s life seems like it’s all going to be sunshine, lollypops and rainbows from here on out. Until the new nightmares start. Nightmares where Alice is dressed in a nun’s habit and wearing a nametag saying ‘Amanda Krueger.’ She’s in a lunatic asylum where she is attacked by the inmates. There are more dreams in which Alice, as Amanda, relives Freddy’s cursed birth by herself giving birth to him. Once again reborn, Freddy sets about killing Alice’s friends but leaving her alone. Alice discovers why after Dan’s shocking and unexpected death: she’s pregnant with Dan’s baby and Freddy has used the dreams of her unborn child to get into her dreams as well. Freddy needs her alive at least until her child is born. Alice’s friends are woefully unequipped to help her but she does have one powerful ally. Amanda Krueger’s spirit has joined the fight to aid Alice in defeating her damned son once and for all.

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Although Lisa Wilcox has improved a lot as an actress since “The Dream Master” the real star here is the special effects, the dream imagery and three of the most visually striking kills of the entire series. Dan is riding on a motorcycle that merges with him and both become this H.R. Giger inspired biomechanical demon. There’s a simply amazing shot of this creature roaring down a highway billowing smoke behind it. Mark falls asleep and is sucked into a black-and-white comic book where he is turned into a 2D character. When Freddy cuts him, instead of blood flowing out, it’s all the color from his body. Greta is fed to death. It’s a lot more creepy and grisly than it sounds, trust me.

The ending is also imaginatively done with Alice, Amanda and Freddy all trying to get to Alice’s son on M.C. Escher staircases that go every whichaway. It’s a fun scene to watch but we get back to the gruesomeness in the jaw dropping scene after that where Freddy tears his way out of Alice’s body. The special effects boys obviously had a field day in this movie and it shows. There’s some truly imaginative stuff done here.

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The acting is nothing to brag about. The cast of this movie are all nice to look at and they work hard at trying to create characters but it’s obvious way too early that these are just victims and outside of Alice don’t present any real threat to Freddy at all. Kelly Jo Minter gets the thankless job of being the one friend who doesn’t believe any of this Freddy Krueger stuff and so is stuck with repeating the same lines about Alice acting crazy over and over and over again. The few scenes that Erika Anderson and Joe Seely have are quite cute, though. His character’s crush on Greta is genuinely sweet and he does make a good impact on the screen when he states how much he loved her.

The two characters and actors who really stand out are supporting characters. There’s Whitby Hertford as Alice’s son, Jacob. Pazuzu only knows where the casting director found this kid from but his big sad eyes, deadpan expression and delivery of my favorite line of his: “Oh. Hello” tickled me to no end. And Nicholas Mele as Alice’s dad gets to show a nice bit of character development in here. In “The Dream Master” he was an obnoxious, self-hating drunk unable to deal with the death of his wife and had lost touch with his kids. Apparently the death of his son in that movie pulled him together and in THE DREAM CHILD he’s a sober, fully supportive parent who’s going to AA meetings, grown back his spine and looks out for his daughter.

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But I can understand why A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD is considered to be a tired movie. By this time it’s pretty clear that nothing anybody can do is ever going to be enough to get rid of Freddy for good. The final scene makes that clear. So why continue with the series if Freddy’s never going to be defeated? I guess that’s why New Line decided to make the next one; “Freddy’s Dead” the last one. But Freddy certainly didn’t deserve to go out the way he does in that one.

But that’s a review for another time. You want to hear if A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD is worth your time. Well, if you’ve watched the first four then why wouldn’t you watch this one? It’s not a waste of time but it is one that you could have playing in the background while you’re doing other stuff and not feel as if you’re missing anything. Enjoy.

90 Minutes

Rated R

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

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1988

New Line Cinema/Heron Communications/Smart Egg Pictures

Directed by Renny Harlin

Produced by Robert Shaye and Rachel Talalay

Screenplay by Brian Helgeland and Scott Pierce

Story by William Kotzwinkle and Brian Helgeland

Based on characters created by Wes Craven

 Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER is that bad of a movie. It is a disappointing movie in a lot of ways but that’s because it had to follow the grand slam home run that was “Dream Warriors.” Let’s face it, “Dream Warriors” is one hell of an act to follow. THE DREAM MASTER is nowhere near as bad as “Freddy’s Dead” but I’ll take “Freddy’s Revenge” over THE DREAM MASTER any day.

We catch up with the surviving Dream Warriors: Kristen (now played by Tuesday Knight) Joey (Rodney Eastman) and Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) who have apparently been released from treatment at Westin Hills and are now attending high school, getting on with living normal lives. At least Joey and Kincaid are. Kristen is still returning to the dreamworld, obsessed with the notion that Freddy Krueger is still alive and well somewhere in the dreamworld, still after them. Joey and Kincaid quite sensibly tell her that she may in fact herself cause Freddy to come back if she keeps on looking for him.

Kristen reluctantly agrees and concentrates on rebuilding her life. And she’s got a good one. She’s got a new BFF, Alice (Lisa Wilcox) Sheila (Toy Newkirk) a brainy black girl, Debbie, a tough chick (Brooke Theiss) who looks out for Sheila and she’s even got a boyfriend, Alice’s brother Rick (Andras Jones.)

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Turns out that Joey and Kincaid were right as Freddy does indeed return to resume killing of Elm Street children. Once he finishes off the last of the Dream Warriors he turns his razor bladed glove on Alice and the others. But before Freddy killed her, Kristen was able to pass on her powers to Alice. Now, whenever one of her friends is killed by Freddy, Alice gains their abilities. How? Don’t ask me. THE DREAM MASTER isn’t big on explaining much of anything but we’ll get to that in a bit.

The movie eventually comes to a showdown in the dreamworld between Alice, now powered with the various abilities of her friends and her brother (Rick’s martial arts skills, Sheila’s intelligence and Debbie’s greater strength thanks to her avid weightlifting) and Freddy.

Let’s get what I didn’t like out of the way first so I can end this review on as upbeat a note as I can, okay? First of all, killing off Joey, Kincaid and Kristen is such a downer that I can’t express it. I mean, in “Dream Warriors” these characters earned their victory over Freddy Krueger and deserved to live their lives in peace. To bring them back in THE DREAM MASTER only to kill them off so coldly and callously is a kick in the ass to the integrity of all the characters in “Dream Warriors” who gave their lives to fight and finally defeat Freddy.

Having said that, I gotta admit that I always knew that if Joey was gonna get it, it would be from chasing a chick. And Kincaid’s next to final scene always gives me chills as he’s in a junkyard that as the camera pulls back we see it apparently covers an entire planet, screaming to the sky over and over; “Freddy’s Back! Freddy’s Back!”

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Tuesday Knight as Kristen is a disappointment in the role but it’s not her fault. Patricia Arquette made such an impact as the character that I feel that if they couldn’t get her back (allegedly she wasn’t even asked to return) they should have just left the character alone. Rodney Eastman and Ken Sagoes bring a lot of energy to their roles for the brief time they’re in the movie and it’s welcome as the crew of young actors in THE DREAM MASTER are nowhere near as interesting or vibrantly memorable as the cast of “Dream Warriors” Oh, they give it their all and I commend them for their work but they just don’t command my investment into their characters. I was tickled pink to see Brooke Bundy return as Kristen’s slutty mom, still shouting “Andale! Andale!” at her stressed out daughter.

But the major flaw of the movie is its refusal to explain anything. Freddy Krueger returns because…well, simply because he’s needed to return. But at least it’s done in a truly memorable fashion with Kincaid’s dog urinating fire on Freddy’s bones. The movie never bothers to explain exactly how Kristen passes along her power to Alice or how that enables Alice to absorb the abilities of her friends when they die. Some cockamamie rhyme about The Dream Master is pulled out of nowhere and that along with Freddy looking at his own reflection (?) enables Alice to defeat him.

But remember how in my review of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” I mention how the series was different from the “Halloween” and “Friday The 13th” series in that the producers, writers and special effects people tried to do something different in each movie? Well, the dream sequences and visuals in this one are exceptional. The one scene that still freaks me out, out of all the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies is the one where Debbie is turned into a cockroach and trapped inside a roach motel. There’s the scene where Kincaid’s dog pisses fire on Freddy’s bones. Yeah, it’s goofy as hell but damn if it don’t work, somehow. There’s the scene in a movie theater where gravity goes berserk and Alice is pulled into the movie she’s watching. And the conclusion has the souls of Freddy’s victims fighting their way out of his body, ripping him to pieces in the process. It’s a doozy of a sequence, heightened greatly by Linnea Quigley’s contributions to the scene. Don’t worry…you’ll know her when you see her.

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So how does A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET: THE DREAM MASTER stack up against the others in the series? As I keep on emphasizing and will maintain: it’s not that bad an entry in the series. It just has the misfortune to follow the movie that is generally regarded as the best sequel of the franchise. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the production values (which are actually damn good, btw) the visual effects or Robert Englund’s performance here as he fine-tunes Freddy’s wisecracking one-liners. And the direction by Renny Harlin is professional and peppy as Harlin knows how to keep a movie moving. But the fate of the Dream Warriors and the uninspired characters doesn’t make this one of my favorites in the series.

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And instead of a trailer, here’s one of the best examples of just how goofy things were back in the 1980’s. By this time Freddy Krueger had become such a pop culture star that he appeared in a video rapping alongside rap superstars The Fat Boys! Enjoy!

 

93 Minutes

Rated R

 

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

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1985

New Line Cinema/Heron Communications/Smart Egg Pictures

Directed by Jack Sholder

Produced by Robert Shaye

Written by David Chaskin

Based on characters created by Wes Craven

When discussing the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series with others, the question always comes up as to just why has this movie franchise managed to still be popular and successful even after so many years. Fans of the franchise such as myself faithfully rewatch the series every Halloween and it’s continually picking up new fans who weren’t even born when the series was in the theaters.

Me, I think it’s because unlike other franchises such as “Halloween” and “Friday The 13th” which pretty much told the same story over and over and over again, one movie after another, the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies honestly tried to do something different with every new entry in the series. Whether it be in terms of actually advancing the terrifying story of Freddy Krueger or doing special effects work that really were outstanding and cutting edge at the time (the scene with the chick who gets turned into a cockroach and crushed in a roach motel in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master” still freaks the shit outta me) the creative folks involved truly did try to do something different with each movie. The “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies don’t become one big blur as other franchises where it gets hard to remember what the plot of different movies were. You name a specific “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie to somebody and I’m willing to bet that they can pretty accurately describe what the plot was.

And that brings us to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE which truly is about as different a horror movie you’re going to find. Why is it different? First, there’s Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) himself. For some unexplained reason, Freddy has decided to manifest himself in The Real World instead of safely killing Elm Street kids in their sleep. To this end he’s picked Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton) as his host body. Jesse’s family have moved into the former home of Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp doesn’t appear in this one, though. We don’t find out what she’s been doing until the next movie, “Dream Warriors”). Jesse takes Nancy’s old room for his own and immediately begins having dreams of Freddy Krueger who demands that Jesse kill for him. Jesse even finds Freddy’s old razor bladed glove in the basement of the house and his girlfriend Lisa (Kim Myers) finds Nancy’s old diary in his closet.

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While Jesse struggles to understand what’s going with him with the help of his friend Ron (Robert Rusler) Lisa does research into the background of Freddy Krueger and the series of mysterious killings that took place on Elm Street five years ago.

And now here’s where the movie goes off into the direction it’s best known for: the homoerotic subtext that supports most of the movie. I myself think that the movie’s director and writer messed things up when they had Freddy plainly be seen by other people as they had a pretty interesting psychological angle going, with Freddy representing Jesse’s repressed homosexual feelings for Ron. There’s two scenes in the movie where it could be interpreted that Jesse has had sex with men and unable to deal with this aspect of himself kills them and blames the killings on Freddy, hallucinating that he sees him. Want more evidence? There’s a great scene where Jesse is making out with Lisa at a pool party and suddenly panics due to Freddy manifesting himself in Jesse and he breaks it off, running to Ron’s house, sneaking into his room in the middle of the night. Ron gets in the best line in the movie here: “Now let me get this straight…she’s waiting for you in the cabana. And you wanna sleep with me.”

Not enough for you? There’s the high school gym teacher that is killed in a pretty blatant S&M fashion after he encounters Jesse in a gay bar. Most of the victims Freddy terrorizes and/or kills are men. Mark Patton himself in interviews lays claim to being the first male Scream Queen and he gets my vote. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie where the lead male role does so much screaming. In fact, most of the men in this movie are ineffectual, with Jesse’s father Ken played by Clu Gulager leading the way. This cat is so much of a brain dead blockhead he borders on being a sitcom dad. It’s the women in this movie who are level-headed, sensible and have steel in their spines. Taken just on that level of traditional male/female roles in horror movies being reversed and the homoerotic subtext, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE makes for intriguing viewing.

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But how does it rate purely as a horror film? I liked how the movie takes its time introducing the characters and making sure we know who’s who and what they’re all about before the mayhem starts. I don’t think it’s anywhere near as violent or as blood-soaked as some of the later films. But it manages to showcase a couple of really nice sequences. The major one being the scene where Freddy tears his way out of Jesse’s body. And the pool party scene is redeemed by that terrific shot of Freddy haloed in flame proclaiming to the terrified teenagers; “You are all my children now.”

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But you really can’t get around the fact that when you look at the movie objectively, it’s not a Freddy Krueger movie. Supposedly Freddy has exactly thirteen minutes of screen time. In a movie that runs eighty-seven minutes, that’s not a lot. The movie’s not about Freddy Krueger at all. It’s about a young man confused and conflicted about his sexuality with Freddy as a supporting character in his own movie. Now some may call this the weakest “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie but me, I’ll still take A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE over “Freddy’s Dead”

87 Minutes

Rated R

 

World War Z

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2013

Paramount Pictures

Directed by Marc Forster

Produced by Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner & Ian Bryce

Screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof

Story by Matthew Michael Carnahan & J. Michael Straczynski  

Based on “World War Z” by Max Brooks

For me, it’s strictly the curiosity factor. Kinda like when I heard that Russell Crowe was in “The Man With The Iron Fists.” I mean, the guy’s an Academy Award winner. What the hell was he doing in a Kung Fu movie? That’s the same reaction I had when I heard about WORLD WAR Z. I mean, Brad Pitt’s a guy who’s been nominated something like four or five times for an Oscar and he’s won a Golden Globe. Moly Hoses, what’s he doing in a zombie movie? I’ve heard that he did it primarily because his sons wanted to see him in a zombie movie. I dunno how true that is but I do know that WORLD WAR Z may just be the first family friendly Zombie Apocalypse movie. Seriously. Finally we’ve got a horror movie you can take the whole family to see.

The Earth is infested with a global outbreak of what can only be described as zombies. They run around like roadrunners on crack, spreading the plague faster than the nations of the world can mobilize a response. Israel closes her borders. No word at all comes out of India and Russia and its assumed they are lost. Former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family barely escape Philadelphia before it is overrun with zombies. They are taken to an aircraft carrier parked some 200 miles off the coast of New York City and Gerry is pressured into helping investigate where the plague began as any hope of finding a cure lies with the origin of the disease.

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From there, Gerry hopscotches around the world, from South Korea, to Israel and to Wales on the track of the cause of the Zombie Apocalypse, staying one step ahead of the tidal waves of zombie hoards and desperately trying to save what’s left of the world and his family.

WORLD WAR Z is without a doubt the most bloodless Zombie movie I’ve ever seen. Those of you reading this who are fans of “The Walking Dead” are going to be disappointed with this one. There’s no gore, no bodies being ripped apart. No long, lingering shots of Zombies munching on screaming human appetizers. Oh, we see people getting bit but nobody gets et. Or even eaten. Zombies are taken out with head shots, sure, but there’s no brains and blood flying around. When skulls are bashed in the baseball bats and crowbars don’t have any blood dripping from them. There’s one character who has to have her hand cut off in order to save her from being infected and there’s no gouts or geysers of blood that we have a right to expect.

Did I mention that this is Brad Pitt in a zombie movie?

?????????????????????The zombies in this movie are Boyle Zombies, not Romero Zombies. By that I mean they act more like The Infected of “28 Days Later” and “28 Weeks Later.” They run fast enough to make Usain Bolt look sick and they swarm in packs like locusts. But for all their menace, the violence in WORLD WAR Z is relatively mild. Seriously. You’ll see more horrifying violence in an episode of “Hannibal” than you will in this movie. Matter of fact, most of the time we see enormous packs of zombies swarming over walls and running through streets and over rooftops, not chomping on folks. It isn’t until the suspenseful final level of the movie where Gerry and two others have to very quietly  sneak into a medical complex overrun with zombies that the director Marc Forster really delivers some scares. I’m not much of a fan of Forster’s directorial style and there’s nothing he does here to change my mind. He’s yet another director who’s in love with shaky-cam because it’s easier for him to swing the camera around wildly instead of storyboarding coherent action sequences.

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But I liked the video game aspect of the movie. Gerry’s going from country to country is akin to him going through the different levels of a video game as there are specific tasks he has to accomplish every place he visits before he can advance to the next. And each level comes complete with a different set of supporting characters, each of who have specific tasks of their own that help Gerry accomplish his.

Brad Pitt is better than he has to be for a movie of this nature. He doesn’t play a two-fisted, guns-a-blazin’ action hero. He’s a committed family man who loves his wife and children deeply and that’s the note he plays through the whole movie. Mireille Enos plays Gerry’s wife and I was really sorry to see her stuck on the aircraft carrier for most of the movie as during the early scenes she demonstrates that she’s no shrieking fishwife. She’s just as capable and resourceful as her husband during this hellish crisis. Daniella Kertesz is terrific as an Israeli soldier who joins Gerry in his mission.

So should you see WORLD WAR Z? As I said earlier, this is a zombie movie that you can take the whole family to. I say that because of the strong family aspect of the movie that motivates the Brad Pitt character and the relatively moderate violence level of the movie. This is a PG-13 movie, after all. It’s not a movie I’d say you have to run out to see but if you can catch it at a matinee as I did I say go for it. I don’t think you’ll feel that your time was wasted.

And do you really want to miss out on seeing Brad Pitt in a zombie movie?

PG-13

116 minutes

Pontypool

2009

Maple Pictures

Directed by Bruce McDonald

Produced by Jeffrey Coghlan and Ambrose Roche

Written by Tony Burgess adapted from his novel Pontypool Changes Everything

Here’s a movie I always recommend for Halloween but is put together so well and is such an original twist on a genre that badly needs a twist that there’s no need for you to wait for Halloween.  Next time you’re looking for a movie that delivers some really thought provoking horror combined with some terrific acting you can’t do much better than PONTYPOOL.

Former shock jock radio personality Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) is now the morning announcer working in a radio station located in the remote Canadian town of Pontypool.  Grant’s not exactly thrilled to be working in Pontypool but he’s got no choice since due to past outrages he’s virtually unhireable in the United States.  Despite his efforts to confront, challenge and charm his listeners, his producer Sydney (Lisa Houle) orders him to stay with school closings and road conditions as that’s the stuff Pontypool residents really want to hear.

But on one morning something decidedly different happens.  Bizarre reports are called in of people acting strangely.  They babble nonsense.  They repeat words and phrases over and over.  The people band into horrendously bloodthirsty mobs.  People are killed.  Property is destroyed.  Grant, Lisa and their technician Laurel Ann (Georgina Reilly) can only listen as terrified citizens call the radio station to describe what is happening in the town.  A happening that can only be described as a zombie outbreak.

But as Dr. Mendez (Hrant Alianak) explains, these aren’t zombies in the conventional sense.  The people are infected with a virus that lives in certain words of the English language.  The virus is driven to communicate with others in order to spread itself to as many hosts as possible to survive.  Unfortunately the virus also turns its hosts into homicidal maniacs.  Grant, Lisa and Dr. Mendez can’t leave the radio station due to the rampaging mob outside and their situation inside becomes more desperate when Laurel Ann becomes infected…

PONTYPOOL is that rare horror movie; one that totally took me by surprise and one that completely drew me in as I had absolutely no idea where this was going or how it was going to end.  Even though the entire movie takes place inside the radio station we get a good idea of the carnage happening outside through phone calls from panicked citizens to Grant, Lisa and Dr. Mendez who are trying their best to deal with what is going on.  And even after they figure out what’s going on, how do they communicate with the outside world to tell them without spreading the virus since they don’t know which words are infected?

This new twist on the zombie idea is a welcome one and gives this material a freshness that is welcome to see.  Stephen McHattie is terrific as the beleaguered Mazzy.  Looking like Lance Hendrickson’s meaner brother with a whiskey-soaked voice he brings his A-game to the role and delivers in style.  I guarantee that you won’t take your eyes off him while he’s on screen.  Lisa Houle backs him up very well and it’s both inspiring and sad to see the course their relationship takes during the course of this incredible situation.

There’s not a whole bunch of gore or wince inducing violence but that doesn’t mean that PONTYPOOL doesn’t deliver on the horror.  By all means, if you haven’t seen it yet and you want to watch a zombie movie unlike any you’ve seen before, this is the one.  Enjoy.

93 minutes