But when Angela heads down to the parking structure -- level P2, hence the title -- she discovers that her car won't start. Thomas (Wes Bentley who was unnerving but a nice guy in
American Beauty ), the parking attendant, offers to charge her battery but without success. She tries to get a cab, but discovers that she is locked in the building. This forces her back down into the parking structure and into the demented hands of Thomas. Apparently, he's always had a crush on her and now he just wants to spend a little quality time with her on Christmas Eve. He's even brought a turkey and all the trimmings in little Tupperware containers that he plans to heat up in the microwave.
Wes Bentley and Rachel Nichols in P2 (Summit Ent.)
When Thomas nabs Angela, he changes her clothes while she's unconscious and chains her to the dinner table. When she awakes, he just wants to talk and share time with her. In a certain respect, this recalls the disturbing Terence Stamp film The Collector , in which he kidnaps a girl and keeps her like a butterfly in his collection. Like Stamp, Bentley initially comes across as more awkward and socially inept than truly terrifying. But as the evening progresses, Bentley's Thomas shows a darker more violent side and a distinct creepiness. Nichols' Angela is one of those contemporary horror dames that refuses to play the victim. And fortunately, she keeps the screaming down to a reasonable amount. From early on, she's ready to fight back. But despite her feistiness and ingenuity, she must still get costumed in a skimpy dress for the bulk of the film. Well, some things never change.
P2 is a lean and stripped-down-to-horror-basics kind of formula. It's quite simply a woman-in-peril. Khalfoun delivers some effective gore upfront, but mostly, he lets his film play out as an elaborate and deadly hide-and-seek game with Angela trying to get away from Thomas in the bowels of the parking lot. Early on, we get the obligatory cell phone disabling scene (a contemporary necessity these days to explain why people get stuck in such bad situations) to explain why something as simple as getting out of her office is so damn difficult.
The end result is a solidly crafted B-horror movie with stronger than usual performances and a script that's not too dumb, which is to say that there's a minimal amount of yelling back at the screen. Khalfoun does front load the film with unnecessary padding, showing Angela in scenes that we know will go nowhere and have not purpose other than extending the running length to a respectable 90 or so minutes. Khalfoun also, for the most part, resists the self-reflexive jokiness of the Scream movies. He plays the horror straight although he never builds the tension as high as he could considering he's set his heroine up for a possible three-day holiday with a creepy psychopath.
P2 (rated R or strong violence/gore, terror and language) is nothing fancy or flashy. It could use more innovation and either tension or dark creepiness, but all in all, it's not a bad directing debut for Khalfoun. The film does achieve it's height of creepiness when Angela finds a videotape of Thomas fondling her when she's unconscious.
Companion viewing: Haute Tension, The Collector, American Beauty