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#82 - Top 100 Canadian Films

In the lead up to the 7th Canadian Film Festival in Australia (August 2012), join us as we countdown the Top 100 Canadian Films of the past 30 years. We'll be posting one film a day leading up to Canada Day on July 1st 2012. Do you agree with our staff favourites? Let us know your thoughts!

#82 - Pump Up The Volume


By day he’s a loner that blends into the background of his "white bread" high school; but when the clock hits 10:00 p.m., Mark Hunter transforms into something of a teenage prophet, broadcasting his personal thoughts and opinions to his fellow students through his pirate radio station. Released in 1990, Canadian filmmaker Allan Moyle’s cult classic, Pump Up the Volume, explores the angst and loneliness that comes with being a teenager in an adult-controlled world. 

After Mark is uprooted from his life and friends in the East Coast to live in Arizona, his father gives him a short-wave radio under the pretense that he’ll use it to talk to his friends back home; instead, he uses it to inadvertently connect with the new crop of teens at his high school. Though he tries to hide behind his cocky, obscene radio alter-ego (“Hard Harry”), Mark is confronted with facing reality when he feels partly responsible for influencing a fellow student’s suicide, uncovers serious corruption in the school district, comes under fire with the FCC, and his identity is discovered by Nora, a kindred soul that frequently writes in to the show. 

Christian Slater is in his prime as Mark, effectively portraying a quasi Jekyll and Hyde hero to Hubert Humphrey high school. The film is heavy in dialogue, specifically in Mark’s broadcasted monologues. In my opinion one of the most powerful scenes takes place the night after fellow student Malcolm’s suicide is announced. Mark talks for only a few minutes before saying “sayonara” and turning off his mic; seconds later, he comes back on the air, much to the relief of his listeners, and launches into a speech urging everyone to take hold of their lives and make them matter. It’s as if Mark is talking to himself as well as his peers as many of them follow his advice, momentarily losing his Hard Harry façade to completely be Mark. 

Pump Up the Volume is one of those films that makes you never want to return to the horrors of high school, while at the same time nostalgically wishing you could relive your rebellious teenage years. It’s a film that manages to be cynically funny, upsetting, and uplifting all at once. 

The radio show is as cathartic an experience for the audience as it is for the characters, and makes you wish you had your own station.

-Pamela Galbraith

"Writer/director Moyle turns what could have been a wallow in teen angst into something altogether more forceful. The perfectly cast Slater effectively propels the film, his intensity and dry delivery giving it a definite edge, as does a soundtrack which includes Ice T, Concrete Blonde and the Cowboy Junkies." (Time Out) 

To see the other films in the countdown so far, click here.

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