4/18/2008

P2

Director:
Franck Khalfoun

Way to ruin Christmas, Thomas.

After an off-screen confrontation had her fending off an amorous married colleague who had a little too much to drink at the work Christmas party, the last thing beautiful workaholic Angela Bridges (Rachel Nichols) wants to deal with is more unwelcome attention from creepy males yet she gets much more than she bargained for in Franck Khalfoun’s intelligent scarefest P2.

The last to leave her office, the brainy Angela makes all the right decisions by phoning relatives to inform them she’s leaving and riding down in the elevator with a friendly older security guard and it’s thanks to the inclusion of these little character establishing details that instinctively gets audiences on Angela’s side as refreshingly we realize we’ve been treated to a logic-driven horror heroine worthy of our interest in the same vein as Jodie Foster in Panic Room, Neve Campbell in Scream and Rachel McAdams in Red Eye. Temporarily reassured by the appearance of others leaving at the same time, Angela journeys to her car confidently and quickly where she left it on parking level P2 only to discover that it won’t start. Aware that the building and attached garage will be closed for three days, Angela gathers up her belongings and gifts and searches for access to the elevator room so that she can go upstairs and phone a cab.

Assistance comes in the form of Thomas (Wes Bentley), a seemingly friendly security guard with a requisite terrifying attack dog named Rocky who first gallantly offers to attempt to recharge the car’s battery and then after her polite insistence, lets her go phone for a cab. Before she leaves, he invites her to share his small Christmas meal and given her exhausted expression as she tries to process the offer, he informs her that he was kidding before suggesting that perhaps they eat together another time, to which, again out of kindness, she agrees.

After discovering an inability to exit the locked building when her cab arrives, their dinner date comes sooner than expected when Thomas sneaks up on Angela and drugs her with a handkerchief. She awakens to the sounds of “I’d like You for Christmas” playing on a scratchy record player, only to discover that she’s been changed into a revealing evening dress and chained at the ankle. Now seated at his candlelight dinner table, Thomas proceeds to act as though they’re on their first date, discussing his hobbies and inquiring as to her background. Quickly we ascertain that the entire evening has been a wicked setup by Elvis obsessed, Hemingway reading lonely security guard turned stalker Thomas and that’s when the film, which started out like an eerie suspense picture takes a turn towards horror as Angela uses her cunning and intuition to try and escape Thomas’s parking garage trap that gets all the more terrifying when he begins dispatching victims with the words “way to ruin Christmas.”

The type of film that will definitely play better to female audiences especially those who, like me, actually held a job where my car was parked on P2, Khalfoun's P2 taps right into female fears as I found myself more than once infinitely glad I was watching the film in the privacy of my own home as I yelled back at the television to urge Angela on. Despite a few dubious and forced concluding confrontations that do feel a bit contrived, P2 is a mostly successful thinking person’s horror film that will hopefully gain more viewers on DVD, as opposed to its ill-timed pre-holiday theatrical release which made the spooky, violent tale a festive mood-killing, surefire “way to ruin Christmas" indeed.