Written by: Alexandre Aja, Franck Khalfoun, Gegory Levasseur
Directed by: Franck Khalfoun
Reviewed by: Brett G.
In the past few years, Alexandre Aja has begun to emerge as a premier name in the horror genre. The French director exploded onto the mainstream scene with his 2003 release High Tension (also known as Switchblade Romance). He was then tapped to direct a remake of Wes Cravenís 1977 classic The Hills Have Eyes, which turned out to be one of the better remakes in recent years. In 2007, Aja returned to the scene in the role of producer and writer for P2, a horror thriller directed by Franck Khalfoun in his directorial debut. Both of the aforementioned Aja films were very slick, entertaining films that delivered a decent amount of thrills and gore to satisfy a horror fan. Can Aja produce that same magic in the role of producer?
P2, like many horror films, has a simple plot. Itís Christmas Eve, and corporate worker Angela (Rachel Nichols) is working late. Sheís already late to a family function, and this problem is compounded when her car wonít start. The parking garage attendant, Thomas, offers some help and invites Angela to his private Christmas dinner. She refuses and opts to call for a cab instead. However, Angela doesnít realize that sheís been locked in the building and, as a result, is unable to meet the cab. She is then suddenly assaulted and knocked out by an unseen assailant. When she comes to, we predictably learn that her attacker was Thomas, who has apparently been stalking Angela from afar through his security monitors. The film then turns into a game of cat and mouse as Angela attempts to escape the clutches of a man who has developed a warped sense of affection towards her.
After seeing the trailers for P2, I was expecting something in the vein of the ďtorture pornĒ oriented films that have been released in droves recently. Instead, I was happy to see that this element isnít a major component of the film after all. While there is one sequence that borders on being torture, it works well in the context of the film. Iím just glad the entire film didnít wind up being an hour of seeing Thomas torture Angela, so if you have that concern, I can assure you thatís not the case. In fact, itís exactly the opposite, and this is where P2 gets a little interesting.
As I stated before, Thomas has developed a warped sense of affection towards Angela. As such, he thinks heís being extremely kind to Angela and is attempting to woo her, despite the fact that he has her leg tied to a table. He even sees himself as Angelaís protector, as he takes vengeance on a man who, in a drunken stupor, sexually harassed Angela, who is horrified by such proceedings. The most part, Thomas is a fairly creepy horror villain because he genuinely doesnít seem to think what heís doing is wrong. Wes Bentley turns in a pretty uneven performance, overall, however, as the character is more effective when heís relegated to low key moments. When the script calls for more intensity from the character, Bentley just doesnít ooze enough menace, and I even found myself laughing at some of his more deranged lines. Ultimately, though, youíre rooting against him, so the film at least accomplishes that.
On the other side of the coin, Angela is pretty much your standard horror heroine who has to rely on her own cunning to escape her predicament. Weíre really not given a whole lot of information about the character, and Rachel Nichols isnít really given much to do in the script besides be terrified and thwart Thomasís plans. Though the character is written pretty thinly, Nichols does bring enough likeability to the role. On the whole, both characters are interesting enough to carry the film, as there are only a couple of other characters in the entire film.
For a film with such a simple premise, it really does manage to stay thrilling enough to remain interesting. The film rarely gives a viewer a chance to catch their breath once the action ramps up. Itís at this point where I think you begin to see Ajaís influence, as the film is quickly paced and full of suspense. His influence is also apparent in the subject matter, as we once again find a character that is forced to commit extremely violent acts out of preservation, which is something we especially saw in his Hills redux. P2 doesnít ooze the grue like that film, however. While there is one sequence that features an absolutely brutal death, the gore is parceled out over the course of the film. There are certainly some cringe-inducing moments that donít feature a ton of gore, too, which is always nice to see.
Overall, P2 is a nice, suspenseful little thriller that is somewhat reminiscent of Cravenís Red Eye from a few years back. I canít see it becoming a classic in the genre, but itís not a bad way to pass 90 minutes. Itís got some nice, tense moments, and two interesting characters that play off of each other very well. When itís all said and done, Ajaís freshman stint as a producer is a successful one, but Iím very much looking forward to his future projects as a director (Mirrors and a remake of Piranha). P2 was recently released on a nice little DVD, which features a great anamorphic transfer and a very aggressive Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Thereís also a commentary with Aja and Khalfoun as well as a few featurettes on the filmís production. If youíre a big Aja fan, the package is worth the asking price (usually somewhere around $15, though I suspect itíll be cheaper than that soon). If youíre just a casual horror viewer that wants to see whatís going on in the genre as of late, itís definitely worth a look, but probably nothing more. Rent it!
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