So the other day I sat down to watch a movie called Dead Air and as the story labouriously unfolded, I not only had the distinct impression I'd seen it somewhere before, but it'd seemed much better at the time. Turns out I was right, and the better movie's name is Pontypool.
Not too long ago, I watched an amazing little movie called Pontypool. For those not from around here, Pontypool is little place in Ontario about halfway, as the crow flies, between Oshawa and Peterborough. Hardly a major metropolitan area, it proves the perfect setting for our story.
The day starts off as shock radio jock Grant Mazzy (played by Stephen McHattie) is settling in for his first shift at CLSY, the small town of Pontypool's AM radio station. What begins as a fairly routine morning show soon comes off the rails as reports of wanton violence start piling up, apparently caused by the town's inhabitants turning in to weird cannibal zombies. You know you're in for a good time when his producer, Laurel-Ann Drummond (played by Georgina Reilly), starts projectile vomiting blood all over the broadcast booth.
Doesn't sound like too bad a story, does it? And, you're right. It's not. It's actually a good story set against a believable enough background that the whole thing just kind of comes together. Now, you're wondering, what would happen if we took this and blew it up to such a scale that we didn't just need to willingly suspend our disbelief, we had to lock it up in a cage and poke it repeatedly with a sharp stick? You'd end up with Dead Air.
Meet Logan Burnhardt (played by Bill Moseley): An egostical shock jock joining up with his sidekick Gil (David Moscow) to unleash the latest barrage in their continuing aural assault on the people of LA. The evening is interrupted, however, when some terrorists release a biological agent that starts turning people into flesh ripping zombies. Sound familiar?
The two movies diverge for most of the second act as both groups of people must fight to stay alive and figure out what's happening in a world that's going sideways and showing no signs of stopping. Dead Air has the added intrigue of whether or not his wife and child are okay, but members of the Pontypool crew have to deal with hearing people they've known their entire live get ripped to shreds, then in some cases get back up and join in the carnage. They react a lot less callously, even the unaffable Grant Mazzy, and you develop more of a feeling for their plight.
If you break it down using the standard screenwriting paradigm, the 5 uh-ohs and oh-shits are essentially the same and the oh-my-gods are pretty much what you'd expect from movies featuring groups of people holed up anywhere, but Pontypool is a much more believable story and you walk away feeling that it was the smarter of the two. Plus, in my opinion, it's final oh-my-god is worlds cooler than Dead Airs.
So what it boils down to, basically, is that if you've seen Pontypool then you've already seen Dead Air, just picture a less engaging story with more cliched and annoying characters. If you've seen Dead Air and not Pontypool, then you picked the weaker sibling.