On the second day of The Abominable Dr. Welsh’s 12 Days of Christmas Carnage, we have P2. You may not remember the movie, but horror fans likely know its creators. Alexandre Aja was one of the darlings of the 2000’s New French Extremity movement. Director Franck Kahlfoun directed a remake of a certain 80’s slasher classic. Given the talent behind the camera, why has P2 faded into horror obscurity?
Angela Bridges is a career-driven woman working late at her Manhattan firm on Christmas Eve. When she’s finally ready to leave and join her family, Angela’s car inexplicably won’t start. Stranded on the second level of the underground parking garage, Angela gets unexpected help from lonely security guard, Thomas. Unfortunately, the secretly obsessed Thomas has other plans for Angela and her Christmas Eve.
P2 Wastes Its Setting and Premise
One definitely gets the impression of where P2’s creators wanted to go with their premise. The setting, the cast, Alexandre Aja – everything was in place for a fun, edgy cat-and-mouse thriller. Yet somehow the execution fails to bring all these elements together in any satisfying way. That’s not to say that P2 is boring. Certainly director Franck Khalfoun keeps P2 clipping along at a lively pace. On the one hand, P2 isn’t bogged won with long lulls in action. Still P2 never feels like an ‘edge-of-your-seat’ thriller.
When we get the expected ‘stalk-and-chase’ scenes, they fail to elicit much in the way of genuine tension.
To some extent, P2 suffers from Khalfoun’s inability to fully exploit the movie’s setting. Underground parking garages are just inherently creepy. Nevertheless, Khalfoun fails to use his setting’s corners and shadows often enough to drum up the requisite suspense. Additionally, for a movie positioned as a ‘cat-and-mouse’ horror-thriller, there’s a paucity of the necessary stalking. When we do get the expected ‘stalk-and-chase’ scenes, they fail to elicit much in the way of genuine tension.
P2 Is Movie Suffering From An Identity Crisis
French horror director Alexandre Aja served as one of the produces of P2. New French Extremity fans know Aja from his bloody work on High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, and Piranha 3D. Keep in mind, Khalfoun’s no slouch in the gore department either. His directorial credentials include the very good and visceral Maniac remake. Aja and Khalfoun’s past work in splatter horror may be part of P2’s problem.
Though P2 positions itself as a ‘cat-and-mouse’ thriller, it wants to be a good old-fashioned, blood-soaked splatter flick.
Though P2 positions itself as a ‘cat-and-mouse’ thriller, it wants to be a good old-fashioned, blood-soaked splatter flick. Arguably, the movie’s best moments come when Khalfoun gets to revel in that 70’s exploitation-style violence. Thomas’ ‘punishment’ of one of Angela’s ‘handsy’ co-workers is much more in line with Khalfoun and Aja’s past work. Its the kind of gory fun that High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes remake both delivered. Unfortunately, this movie’s premise and setting limit P2’s ability to go more in this direction. As a result, P2 feels like two very discordant movies stitched together.
When You Can’t Even Make Wes Bentley Creepy …
For the most part, P2 is a two-person show anchored by Rachel Nichols and Wes Bentley. Nichols is a solid, if underused, actress in Hollywood. Sadly, this is another movie that wastes Nichol’s in a role that doesn’t call for much more than playing a ‘damsel-in-distress.’ Yes, Nichols’ ‘Angela’ turns the tables on her captor, but we’ve seen far more interesting female protagonists in recent years. Some viewers may even complain that the movie objectifies Nichols as much as its villain.
Perhaps the biggest sign that all is not right is how badly the movie wastes Wes Bentley. A solid actor, Bentley particularly excels at playing creepy characters that get under your skin. Here, Bentley channels buried rage near the movie’s climax. But for much of the movie, Bentley’s character feels oddly flat. This is less a problem with Bentley himself, and more of an indictment of the screenplay. If Bentley’s ‘Thomas’ fails to register, it’s in no small part due to how rote the character feels.
P2 Fails To Deliver Much Festive Fear
Since its release in 2007, P2 has largely languished in obscurity. That’s probably not a coincidence. Though it’s a perfectly serviceable thriller, there’s nothing that’s likely to stand out a few minutes after you’ve finished watching it. The few scenes that tease a better horror movie are more likely to get you to watch Aja or Khalfoun’s past work than re-watch P2 itself.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C+