Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Shocktober Day 14 - Horrors to Play - Pontypool

Pontypool is a movie that encompasses everything great about the different themes I've been exploring this month. It takes place in a single location - an old radio studio in a tiny town in Canada - and is pretty much perfection when it comes to the one-shot kind of story I love to play this time of year using Dread or Call of Cthulhu.

Stephen McHattie plays the diminished shock jock-turned small town morning radio host Grizzly Mazzy on his first day of work in his new job. Everything is going just as boring as Grizzly must have feared as he pushed the boundaries of what the small town can handle and shows off (aided immensely by the amazing voie of McHattie) just why he may have lost his big syndicated gig in the first place. Everything's going fine, that is, until they start getting calls of people acting more like animals than humans as violence seems to be randomly breaking out all over the area.

That's all I'm going to say about the plot, because I don't want to spoil the really weird - and original - nature of the plot and the way it makes a lot of new, interesting rules for the genre of horror movie it would most easily fit into. The hook of Pontypool is the fact that the town itself is small and isolated, but then our characters (the cast is tiny with three main characters and a fourth interested late in the movie) are even more isolated in the large radio station building. They're helpless as they try to take in what they hear and get information back out to the people of Pontypool and make the horrific situation a little less terrible.

I want to play Pontypool in a game so badly. As I mentioned above, it does some things I could only see a one-shot story try to pull off. A lot of what makes the plot work would be very difficult to sustain in a long campaign or series of sequels. Obviously isolation is built right into the story as it's extremely dangerous to leave the radio station, which the players would find out really quickly if they attempted such a foolish act. More so, I think it would be a heckuva lot of fun to make some voice recordings before the game to be played as people call in and report what they see and experience. The definited roles of the characters - morning show host, producer, and technician - are also really well set up right away as player characters.

I recommend Pontypool to anyone who isn't squemish and is looking for something a little different. Everything about the movie shows a higher production value and level of talent involved than it probably has the right to. It's quick moving, and even though everything happens in the one building, it never feels stale because the director and cinematographer are constantly giving us new ways to look at things and different angles to throw us off guard. There are so many game-able ideas throughout its runtime, and it's frankly an inspiration to a GM who feels burnt out on running their seventh or fifteenth Halloween one-shot horror game.

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