P2 (2007) / Thriller-Horror

MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, gore, terror, sexuality and language
Running time: 98 min.

Cast: Rachel Nichols, Wes Bentley, Simon Reynolds
Cameo: Kathryn Morris
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Screenplay: Alexandre Aja, Franck Khalfoun, Gregory Levasseur

The Hills Have Eyes crew reunite yet again for another excursion into terror, though this time, the story is fairly routine. With so many exploitation flicks coming out of late in the horror genre, many of them involving a woman forced to submission by a man who must get his fix, P2 has little chance to stand out.  The only aspect that seems unique is the setting of a parking garage, but even that angle has been done before, most notably in the recent straight-to-video thriller with a similar name, E5.  Not to mention Captivity's recent release already pushed the captive woman mini-genre into overkill status.  Without originality, and falling into predictable patterns, the only assets P2 can ride on are the performances of the stars and the slick direction by first-timer Khalfoun.  Though they do impress at times, there's just not enough oomph to generate the momentum necessary to turn a derivative thriller into at least a passably entertaining b-movie excursion.  That and the fact that it's just hard not to snicker as the acting and ramped-up situations go way over the top.

It's a very simple premise.  Angela (Nichols, Resurrecting the Champ) is a single workaholic who is working in her downtown Manhattan office building right up to the last minute on Christmas before a rare visit to spend time with her family.  One of the last to leave, she heads to her isolated car in the lower level parking garage only to find that her car won't start, and of course, her phone doesn't work so deep in the building.  The only other person around is the security guard, Thomas (Bentley, Ghost Rider).  Unbeknownst to Angela, Thomas has had a major infatuation with her, and now that he finally has her alone, he's going to have his fantasy evening with her regardless of what she has to say about it.  Chained and humiliated, Angela tries to escape, but in the desolate parking garage, no one is there to hear her cries for help.

Thought the filmmakers would probably claim that P2 is survivalist horror, it's pretty clear that they are more out to make an exploitative thriller that pushes buttons of titillation rather than have us reeled in to a gripping story of a woman out to save herself by any means necessary.  Unlike, say, Panic Room, which features a similar plot of a woman who must use her creativity to find a way out of her predicament, Khalfoun and company see their victim as more of a sexual being, wasting little time in getting her down to a slinky, revealing nightgown, then having her get wet and tussled when possible.  Of course, that film also had a proven director and star, while P2 has some up-and-comers who aren't likely to ever become household names if their work here is any indication.

Jump-scares are inserted at random intervals, most only scary because of the noise factor much more so than for having you on the edge of your seat.  Nothing in the film is particularly scary, although some of the moments of violence are on the disturbing side (eye gouging, vicious battery, etc.)  Although the story itself is never very compelling, giving Khalfoun a bit of credit, he does know how to deliver an action scene.  One such scene has Angela escaping momentarily in the building elevator, with Thomas trying to flush her out.  Another is a game of chicken as the cat and mouse drive manically around the complex.  From an editing standpoint, those scenes represent the best the film has to offer.  It's a shame that the build-up is insufficient to deliver a big payoff when they occur.

P2 is late-night cable fodder given a perplexing push for a theatrical release.  As a time waster for gory thriller junkies, I suppose you could do worse, but it's the kind of film only enjoyed by those looking for cheap thrills and bloody kills. 

Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo