However shrewdly contrived to keep its budget low, "Pontypool," set almost entirely in a basement radio station, is a zombie flick sans bite.

However shrewdly contrived to keep its budget low, “Pontypool,” set almost entirely in a basement radio station, is a zombie flick sans bite. Nearly an hour passes before yet another familiar slew of flesh-seeking ghouls penetrate the walls of small-town Ontario’s CLSY-AM — and, alas, go home hungry (not unlike auds). Would-be horror pic’s failure to deliver even mildly on generic conventions while talking itself to death — this in a film about the viral dangers of language — will be mistaken by some for subversion, natch, but “Pontypool” won’t make the slightest B.O. ripple regardless.

With Stephen McHattie as a cowboyish deejay better suited to an ’80s-era John Carpenter film, veteran Canuck helmer Bruce McDonald (“The Tracey Fragments”) assumes rather than cultivates the viewer’s interest in a possible deadly outbreak. Freaked-out listeners call in with vague reports of horrific activity in the titular town — enough to inspire countless shudders from the host’s producer (Lisa Houle) and young assistant (Georgina Reilly), but not nearly enough to sustain a full-length feature. Zombie subgenre’s sociopolitical import is squandered here, give or take a pretentious talk about the power of speech. Tech credits are OK.

Pontypool

Canada

Production

A Maple Pictures presentation, in association with Crescent Road Films, of a Shadow Shows Entertainment/Ponty Up Pictures production. Produced by Jeffrey Coghlan, Ambrose Roche. Executive producers, Jasper Graham, Henry Cole, J. Miles Dale. Directed by Bruce McDonald. Screenplay, Tony Burgess, from his novel "Pontypool Changes Everything."

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, HD, widescreen), Mirolsaw Baszak; editor, Jeremiah Munce; music, Claude Foisy; production designer, Lea Carlson; art director, Andrew Berry; costume designer, Sarah Armstrong. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Vanguard), Sept. 6, 2008. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly, Hrant Alianak, Rick Roberts, Tony Burgess.

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