I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

P2

tn_p2It’s weird how the secret to a good movie idea sometimes is just to think of a really limited location and then figure out everything that could happen inside there. Like there’s that movie coming out where Ryan Reynolds is buried alive, and there was the one where Colin Farrell couldn’t leave the phone booth. There’s the building in DIE HARD, the bus in SPEED, the mall in DAWN OF THE DEAD, the hockey stadium in SUDDEN DEATH, and there should be one that takes place entirely in one of those Japanese compartment hotels. Or a nerd gets stuffed in his locker and then terrorists take over the school and he has to fight them from inside. Or a cartoon about a cat stuck in a tree and there’s a bird’s nest there and they’re forced to get along and learn from each other, like Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune in HELL IN THE PACIFIC.

mp_p2Anyway P2 was probly made up by somebody on their way home from work, but that’s kind of the beauty of it. It seems like something that could really happen, and isn’t that just our luck?. Rachel Nichols (the good guy redhead in GI JOE) plays Angela, an overworked gal leaving her office late on Christmas Eve only to find that her car won’t start. She tries to get help from the one security guard on duty in the parking garage (Wes Bentley), but no luck. Then she tries to call a cab from the building but when it gets there she can’t get the building’s doors to open and the driver ditches her, and her day just keeps on getting worse. I really mean that, it gets alot worse than the cab ditching her.

I suppose there could be a whole movie about this sort of trouble, in fact there could definitely be a romantic comedy where her bad luck just escalates and escalates and it takes her a while to figure out that she’s in love with this security guard who keeps helping her. But in my opinion this is not a romantic comedy, this is a horror movie, so you gotta have some bad intentions involved. And I’ll say SPOILER but I think the point where you know for sure it’s not gonna be all that romantic is when she finds herself drugged and wakes up TEXAS CHAIN SAW style. Suddenly she’s wearing a low cut dress and heels, sitting down for an intimate Christmas meal in the parking garage security office, with Bentley dressed as Santa Claus. He calmly tells her that it’s okay, everything’s fine, she just passed out. But it’s hard to believe that when her leg is cuffed to the table, you know?

I kind of forgot about Wes Bentley after AMERICAN BEAUTY, other than to occasionally confuse him with Adam Scott. But now I think he deliberately hid out in obscurity so he wouldn’t be overly familiar in this role. He’s  a really good villain because he seems so convinced that he’s not a psycho. He thinks he’s a real nice guy fighting loneliness. There are small hints that he’s influenced by the romantic gestures in movies. He points out that people who go through an ordeal together often fall in love. After SEVEN, all the SAW movies, LAW ABIDING CITIZEN and other movies where the psychos are trying to prove points it’s nice to see one where he’s just trying to get a girl.

It might be an understatement to say that this guy just doesn’t know how to woo somebody properly. He gives her a gift but it’s a pretty presumptuous one – he actually kidnapped a boss who drunkenly made a move on Angela after the Christmas party. In HALLOWEEN 6 or something this could be a character that you’re supposed to want to see killed, but this is closer to the real world so you think “This is too much. For chrissakes man, she already forgave him! Let him go!” But Bentley doesn’t pick up on that. He just know he’s awesome, a knight in shining armor going above and beyond. Like, wow, she can’t help but be impressed by this one.

To do one of these movies right they gotta set up the geography and the players and then find a whole list of what could happen taking advantage of these elements. And they gotta go through all the possible solutions to the puzzle, the things she should do to try to get out (find the other security guard, get her phone back, go up the elevator, etc.) and why those things don’t work. One of my favorite bleak-but-you-gotta-admit-kind-funny moments is when she screams for help through some sidewalk grating but the only person who hears her is a mentally ill homeless lady pushing a shopping cart, who repeats the cries for help over and over again like it’s just something she says to herself.

Angela goes through the classic Women of Horror Gauntlet. She gets terrorized, beat up, but doesn’t give up. She tries everything she can think of and when one doesn’t work she thinks up the next one. She’s covered in the blood of herself and others, and comes out the other end a savage ready to stab Michael Myers, beat some WUFs to death with a bone, blow an alien out the airlock or whatever she needs to do. The horror movies offer an equivalent to boot camp or 36 chambers, they carve charcoal into diamonds.

I’d say her most primal moment has gotta be when he sics his attack dog on her. This is a fight to the death, and our girl wins the fight. What makes it great is Bentley’s reaction – he gets really upset and can’t understand why she would kill his dog. “Why would you do that?” Well look, buddy, your’e the one that put her in touch with her primal self. You unleased this beast. Don’t cry when it eats your dog.

(note: that’s a metaphor. She doesn’t literally eat his dog [spoiler])

I think there’s a great joke at the end too. Obviously this is a SPOILER but I think it’s too good not to discuss. She turns the tables on him and ends up with him contained. She can walk away and the cops will be able to come get him and she can go clean the dog’s blood off herself before Christmas morning. But as she’s walking away he calls her the ol’ c-word. And she turns around like “WHAT!?” and proceeds to do something that owuld make a P2-2 more difficult.

So even after graduating horror movie boot camp she was ready to give him a little Christmas grace, but he blew it with his misogynistic vocabulary.

This was produced and co-written by Alexandre Aja and his writing partner Gregory Levasseur, but the director is Franck Khalfoun (who wikipedia claims edited THE HILLS HAVE EYES, but if so nobody told IMDB). It’s a tight, solid movie with a worthy heroin and villain, a serious tone but a slight undercurrent of dark humor. It’s a very effective cat and mouse game, it’s got the strong filmatistic mechanics of HIGH TENSION without the mistake of completely blowing it with a hotshot plot twist maneuver in the last act. I was also surprised and delighted that Bentley’s character doesn’t go too far into having super powers or anything. It might be a little far-fetched when he fills the elevator with water and somehow sneaks a corpse in there without her seeing it coming, but for the most part it all seems like things he could really do.

I should’ve gotten to this one earlier, it’s modest but underrecognized. Share it with your loved ones this holiday season. Also it’s cool that it’s able to have the title painted on a wall within the movie. Because it’s called P2, you get it?

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 at 2:19 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

44 Responses to “P2”

  1. I really hated this movie. It just crosses the line from “let’s have some fun with the concept” to “let’s insult the intelligence of the audience” way too much.
    My least favourite part might be the one where her hand is stuck in a gate and she tries to get out, making a lot of noise shaking and pulling it, but then Bentley comes around the corner, she tries to stay quiet and a few seconds later he looks right at the spot where she should be, but somehow she was able to free her hand and disappear without making a noise, although they just showed us very clear that it’s not that easy.
    I also have an allergy against psychopaths who are looking for someone and yell: “Where are you? I don’t wanna hurt you!”

  2. I don’t know, I dug it. Bentley (who was so horrible in Ghost Rider) actually made for a good psycho. “Way to ruin Christmas… ASSHOLE!”

  3. I like Alex Aja, he seems to be committed to horror and making horror movies, even if was just the producer on this one. I saw this a while ago, and thought it was pretty good I think, but don’t remember too much. Also, I don’t think I was as annoyed as the rest of the Internet is with the ending of High Tension, or maybe I just don’t remember that as well. Too many movies. Though I remember Rachel Nichols being pretty.

  4. I wish this one was a little bit creepier, like EURO-CREEPY, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless. I enjoy car kills like any other red blooded American and this flick has one that’s very strong.

  5. Nice review, I might check this one out if it comes into cinemas over here.

  6. Incidentally I’m shocked that I’m actually saying “if” there. Ten years ago, before Odeon took over the British film industry singlehandedly, you could see pretty much any film you wanted to in the cinema, even if it was only in an arts centre somewhere. Not so much now.

  7. Unless you have a DeLorean handy to get back to 2008, not going to happen I’d say.

  8. I lost an argument about who the bad guy was in this. I was convinced it was Pacey from Dawsons Creek. Damn.

  9. The artist formerly known as AU_Armageddon

    September 15th, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Nothing grand but very watchable.

    I had this for a couple years but put off watching till just recently cos I was waiting to get hold of P1…

  10. I was under the impression nobody liked this movie. Turns out 34% of critics kinda liked it.

  11. Thanks for not making the obvious “I didn’t even see P1” joke.

    I’ve been meaning to check this one out again, I seem to recall it being rather enjoyable.

  12. This review almost convinces me this movie is OK, but my memory of it is a lot like what CJ said. Just a non-stop series of dumb horror cliches. I also think I saw it shortly after watching GHOST RIDER and completely losing my ability to take Wes Bentley seriously. Love this line though:

    “(she) comes out the other end a savage ready to stab Michael Myers, beat some WUFs to death with a bone, blow an alien out the airlock or whatever she needs to do.”

    They should make a Final Girl reality TV show. They should also make this movie:

    “a nerd gets stuffed in his locker and then terrorists take over the school and he has to fight them from inside.”

    I swear Vern, start sending these things to Hollywood. By which I mean put them in an envelope, write “Hollywood” on the outside, and put that shit in the mailbox.

  13. I’m saying he should just mail them to Guillermo del Toro. The dude’s already a fan, and he’s producing roughly 28% of all movies currently in production, so I’m sure he could just throw a few more on the docket for shits and giggles.

  14. You know this nerd idea thing is really tickling my fancy. I picture it on some Phil Joanou THREE O’CLOCK HIGH styles. You can pitch it as “DIE HARD in a locker”

  15. make it a remake of “toy soldiers” from 1991, from inside a locker. the stunt casting should be wil weaton or sean astin as the terrorist

  16. If it’s Wheaton, there could be a line where the kids are pissing him off and he shakes his head and says, “I just don’t get the next generation.”

  17. I like this movie too. It’s one of those Chess Board movies. Flicks where the whole board should be clear and understandable from the start, and the rest is playing out different strategies of movement. The only bit I didn’t care for, if I recall, was an Elvis gag that briefly derailed it into self-conscious psycho- movie-movie territory. But it’s a minor quibble. And Rachel Nichols is on more than a few of my ‘lists.’

  18. I’ve been down on myself lately for not striving for excellence and going out of my way to see a wider variety of films like I used to do when I was younger, and this one pretty much sums it up. I remember thinking when it came out that it could be interesting and maybe I should take a chance, but I never did anything about it. Partly because I kept confusing it with Captivity and partly because I didn’t have any faith in Aja. I still haven’t seen ANY of his stuff, but I’m going to change that soon.

  19. Much like your own flick, Giggler, which gives us a nice tour of the house so we’re clear on all the options when the cat-and-mouse starts later.

  20. I like that term – “Chess-board movie”. Sorta describes “Inception” pretty well as well I think. Well, I loved that one. Not such a fan of movies insulting my intelligence though, unless they’re purposefully dumb (see “Armageddon”‘s first forty-five minutes or so, which to be fair is possibly the most entertaining sequence Michael Bay’s ever done that I’ve seen. The moment that it loses me completely is the moment it starts taking itself and its heroics too seriously.)

  21. I liked this movie for the same reason, that it doesn’t go *too* incredibly over the top with the SAW-like unbelievably omniscient villain. Good to see that some filmatists understand that too much mystical implausibility ruins what could otherwise be a good realistic horror setup, without veering too far off in the other direction and ruining the filmatic magic by trying to half-ass some realism into it, like Jason’s elaborate underground shortcut tunnels.

    And the other thing I remember about this movie is seeing some making-of promotional video where Rachel Nichols explains how she had them include a bit in her contract stating she wouldn’t appear in the standard-issue wet white tank top, and that they ended up making her some kind of kevlar nipple-proof bra to wear in the movie. A tragic loss for sharp-eyed, red-blooded male movie fans, but pretty savvy for a young actress who apparently knows about Mr. Skin, I thought.

  22. just watched it thanks to vern’s recommendation and i liked it for the most part. the heroine could have stood to man up a bit from time to time….absolutely hate it when victims in horror movies can’t stop their fucking whimpering for 30 seconds in order to evade detection. and i didn’t completely understand the psycho’s motivation all the time (maybe the keyword there is “psycho”). but what did he think his dog was going to do to her? bring her back like a good girl? at that point, was he really ready to see her mauled to death?

    but aside from a few quibbles, i thought it was good. nothing special, nothing worth watching again anytime soon, but i would recommend it to friends.

  23. I’d meant to see this, by which I mean I was willing to see it. But when I didn’t get around to it I never tried again. The premise is definitely my sort of thing, stuck in one place/chess board genre.

    Can we get a good list going on the obscure but worthwhile location thrillers? I mean, we all know Die Hard, Speed, Phone Booth, but the ones like Cube that come from obscurity and we should all netflix and discuss?

  24. I once saw a terrible Australian flick on tv called Subterano, which was about people trapped in a parking garage fighting killer robots or toys or something, it was made way before P2 too

    anyway I skipped this movie because I figured it wasn’t worth seeing, I’m not too keen on modern horror flicks after being burned by flicks like Turistas and the Friday The 13th remake, but I’ll rent this sometime

  25. I will say however that I’m one of the few people who actually like Eli Roth

  26. FTopel: That old, German thriller ABWÄRTS comes to mind, about a group of people stuck in an elevator. (Yes, the German’s did it already. Shyamalan only added the devil.)

  27. hey FTopel, I just thought a perfect candidate for that, Miracle Mile, most of the movie is set in the miracle mile in L.A/ and is about Anthony Edwards trying to get him and his girlfriend to safety before World War 3 happens and it’s scary as hell

  28. Now I’m seeing this

  29. Vern, I like your idea of the film being a Horror Movie bootcamp. I’ve often been interested in what happens to the surviving characters of horror movies. Take the ending of Wrong Turn, when Eliza Dushku and the guy turn up at the gas station and rip down the map – they both have this
    “do not Fuck with us” look – they’ve been through hell, had to actually kill people to survive, they are definitely different people to those we met at the beginning of the film. I think it would be interesting if a sequel carried forward the survivor, now an established bad-ass, which would in turn need a bigger threat for her to overcome, rather resetting with a new bunch of horror-movie virgins.

  30. FTopel – RAW MEAT (DEATH LINE) and CREEP are both pretty good (the former being better, mainly because of Donald Pleasance), and are about people being trapped in subway tunnels with cannibals. OPEN WATER also popped into my head.

  31. It’s not obscure, but I think WAIT UNTIL DARK is the quintessential confined location thriller.

  32. BELOW is a haunted submarine movie. I wasn’t a huge fan (see my response in the END OF DAYS talkback) but others seemed to like it quite a bit, and it’s definitely pretty claustrophobic

  33. Blah, blah, blah. Sometimes you just need to stop over thinking stuff and just enjoy the gratuitous violence. I’m going to check this one out.

  34. Netflix’d this one. It wasn’t really worth it.

    I think this is “Red Eye” in a parking garage with worse lighting. I could barely remember that one after viewing it, and I don’t think “P2” will stick too long in memory either. I don’t think it’s particularly bad or particularly good, although the two central performances redeem it somewhat. Don’t think I’d recommend it given how many really good horror movies I’ve seen recently.

    Sorry guys, but this one gets a “meh” from me.

  35. CJ and Gwai, thanks. Sound good, actually all sound better than P2 in concept alone. Miracle Mile remains next in my Netflix queue (see my replies in post-apocalypse threads) but always pushed down to #2 by some other movie I find out about and need to see first.

    Open Water doesn’t quite work for me. I think it’s too self-aware and the dialogue really needs a polish (or more seasoned actors to make it believable.) Oh, and of course I’ve seen Wait Until Dark.

    The ultimate may be Panic Room. Who would’ve thought they’d keep that going for 2 hours?

  36. FTopel – Do get around to watch MIRACLE MILE, a terrific little movie. Damn good performance by Edwards, and I liked the mix of suspense/antiticpation and the AFTER HOURS-esque black comedy.

  37. Fun Fact: When MIRACLE MILE was one of the most acclaimed unproduced scripts in Hollywood for most of the 1980s, it almost became the basis for the TWILIGHT ZONE movie. Which would have worked.

  38. Okay, I promise not to put any more movies ahead of Miracle Mile in my queue. Right now I’ve got Road Games, another Vern must see.

    And now that I’ve gotten home from seeing Devil, I’m very much looking forward to a Vern review and a thread about great contained thrillers.

  39. The only thing I remember about P2 (besides jiggling boobies) is that for some strange reason I thought it was rated PG-13 when i started watching it. So right about the part where (SPOILER) the guy gets hit w/ the car and his intestines come out, B-movie style, I was like “whoa the MPAA is getting REALLY lenient”. I could have sworn this movie came out in theatres PG-13 and then had an “unrated” shelf life on DVD and HBO, but I think i was wrong.

  40. It wasn’t bad, just pretty unremarkable. The only memorable thing in the film was Rachel Nichols’ magnificent cleavage, but that’s about it.

    It tries to go for low-key, but ends up just playing it all too safe. And it does dig deep in the tired old horror cliches without going its way to achieve anything new or unique. It’s obvious how it’s going to go the moment all the pieces are in play, including the bog standard grrl power ending.

    Kind of like VACANCY in a way. You don’t hate the film, but it all feels so perfunctory. Like a direct-to-video horror film, but with a classier cast.

  41. HT – I agree with everything you say.

    Except one thing – Rachel Nichols had cleavage? I didn’t notice…

  42. Wow, that’s one catty spambot.

  43. Yeah, I don’t know what he’s advertising, but he had me at “chubby woman with large breasts”.

  44. The original Paul

    November 19th, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Is that really a spambot though? (I’m assuming it’s not the real Abi Titmuss, unless ex Page-3 models have started writing random comments on Internet forums.) Not that I am accusing Rachel Nichols of being chubby, you understand, but it did seem curiously on-topic for a spambot.

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