Alexandre Aja made some kind of name for himself in the horror genre with the thoroughly loathsome High Tension (2003) and the marginally less repellent The Hills Have Eyes (2006). Here he produces and coauthors the screenplay, but turns the directing chores over to Franck Khalfoun, who acted in High Tension. The notable differences brought on by a new director are marginal at best. It is perhaps a little less sadistic than Aja’s films, and there’s the barest chance that the laughs it generates might be at least partly intentional. Anyone who can make a film in which the psychotic killer gets really mad when his intended victim manages to off his attack dog, screaming, “You killed my dog!” has to realize there’s a good chance of generating a huge laugh. At least I hope so.
Even for a torture-porn exercise, P2—the title refers to the parking garage level on which the action mostly takes place—is thin stuff. Rachel Nichols (Resurrecting the Champ) stars as Angela Bridges, a workaholic so “holic” that she’s working way into the night on Christmas Eve. When she finally does leave her office to descend to the parking garage under her office building, she finds her car won’t start. She then enlists the aid of creepy attendant Thomas (Wes Bentley, Ghost Rider) to get back into the building. Of course, Thomas has other ideas—being that he’s the creepy attendant and all—and soon Angela finds herself stripped to her undergarments, lipsticked-up and chained to a chair for Christmas dinner in Thomas’ office. Mayhem ensues. At least that’s the idea. It’s really more like bargain-basement—or maybe bargain-subbasement, considering the locale—melodramatics.
There’s astonishingly little to this movie. After establishing its one-note premise, it consists of very little more than Thomas terrifying and abusing Angela. The movie’s idea of variation is to let her escape, be recaptured, escape again and so on. Add a couple gallons of fake blood, stir and serve it up again. The whole thing’s more reheated than the repast Thomas attempts to share with his captive. I have no idea whose idea it was to craft this thing as little more than a two-character drama, but they need a good talking to. Of course, it’s possible that there was some thought of roping in thespians of a slightly higher caliber than Bentley and Nichols (like higher caliber thespians would even read this script).
Regardless, neither actor is exactly dynamic, even though Bentley makes a game stab at the old gonzo-nutcase routine. The problem is that the script wants him to be a vaguely understandable fellow—a psycho in the tradition of Terence Stamp in William Wyler’s The Collector (1965). He’s not just crazy, he’s a lonely, socially inept young man with what can only be described as backwards notions about making friends. Most people just don’t like being stripped down to their underclothes, fondled while they’re unconscious and chained to a chair—and the ones who do take out ads in the back of the Village Voice. The film isn’t fooling anybody with its phony depth attempts.
Worse, the movie has a central setup that only holds water if we assume that Angela has recently escaped from a home for the terminally bewildered. The woman runs all over this damned garage trying to get help. At one point, she even gets her mitts on a fire axe, but at no time does it ever occur to her to set off the fire alarm—a device that could have brought all this foolishness to a screeching halt very early on. But then there would have been no movie—not that that would necessarily have been a bad thing.
Having said all that, I will admit that the film does generate a fair amount of suspense in its last act. Of course, it then has to turn around and employ the exact same device that causes the villain’s undoing in Hostel II (2007). Yep, Thomas uses the “c word” on his prey. So let that be a lesson to any would-be crazed killers out there. You can bludgeon, beat, torture, terrorize and inflict all manner of ruderies on your victim, but don’t call her that name. Consider this a friendly warning. Rated R for strong violence, gore, terror and language.