On paper, 2007 horror thriller P2 had a lot going for it. Both its premise and setting promised a nail-biting game of cat-and-mouse. Director Franck Kahlfoun came into the movie – his feature length debut – with lots of promise, And Kahlfoun would go on to direct the very disturbing Maniac remake. Writer and producer Alexandre Aja (Crawl, Oxygen) was coming off a sizzling debut of his own with New French Extremity entry, High Tension. Both Wes Bentley and Rachel Nichols were stars on the rise. But P2 bombed with audiences and critics alike. So what happened with this Christmas thriller?
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 night. Will Angela make it to Christmas morning?
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. 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.
When we get the expected ‘stalk-and-chase’ scenes, they fail to elicit much in the way of genuine tension.
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.
But for much of the movie, Bentley’s character feels oddly flat.
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.