Monday, November 19, 2007
P2, the newest film from HIGH TENSION masterminds Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur, is one of the most effective thrillers of the season, and should be doing a lot better than it is. Helmed by first time director Franck Khalfourn, "Jimmy" in HIGH TENSION, P2 benefits greatly from a Christmas setting, a very strong performance by Rachel Nichols, and a refreshingly logical narrative that is believable as well as scary.
The film's story is simple. A young businesswoman is trapped in a deserted car garage on Christmas Eve with a lonely and psychotic night watchman, and she struggles to find a way out. It is the kind of story that has been told a countless number of times, but P2 manages to stay fresh throughout its 100 minute running time.
Reportedly shot in a real Toronto parking garage, P2 has an intense claustrophobic feel that is helped greatly by Khalfourn's assured shooting style, and HIGH TENSION cinematographer Maxime Alexandre's great night time photography. P2 is literally one of the darkest films of the year but, unlike say last years THE DESCENT, it never grows tiring or feels forced. The frankly fantastic score by the always reliable tomandandy certainly helps the film as well and, like their work for Aja in THE HILLS HAVE EYES, the work by the great duo here punctuates the horror well with telegraphing it too much.
The best part of the film though is young Rachel Nichols performance. I had only seen this fine young actress in small roles in SHOPGIRL and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR remake before, so she is fairly new to me. Her work here has a ferocious physicality and intelligence to it. I never for one minute questioned her reasoning, which is rare in the typically logic lacking modern horror genre. It's a great, believably terrified and strong performance that is among the best of the year.
Unfortunately Nichols co-star Wes Bentley doesn't work as well. Bentley is a good actor, and I admired how he tried to keep his character as underplayed as possible, but finally he just isn't a very good bad guy. It is finally just the garage itself that is the most terrifying villain in the film, as Nichols struggles in scene after scene trying to figure a way out.
The film isn't perfect and, outside of Bentley's lackluster performance, it gets derailed in a couple of sections by a couple of out of place scenes and pacing problems. One section in particular, that would have been ideal for the DVD's deleted scenes section, has Bentley lip-synching Elvis Presley's BLUE CHRISTMAS and it just doesn't work.
P2 isn't anywhere near as resonate as Aja's HIGH TENSION or HILLS HAVE EYES remake, but it is a really effective little thriller that I have had a hard time shaking since I saw it over the weekend. I especially liked the final image of the film, which is simultaneously one of the most beautiful and haunting shots of the year.
The film is currently seriously struggling at the box office which is a shame, as it is a splendid film to watch on the big screen. From Rachel Nichols impressive physical presence, to tomandanady's exciting score, P2 is an ideal horror thriller for the holiday season. Shame it will probably be gone before December even arrives.