2007, R, 98 min. Directed by Franck Khalfoun. Starring Rachel Nichols, Wes Bentley, Simon Reynolds.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 16, 2007
There's a moment early on in this minimalist horror film that pays homage to Hitchcock's Psycho, and, more specifically, to Norman Bates' awkward, oddly touching attempt to establish some sort of empathy between himself and victim-to-be Marion Crane. In the motel's back office, Norman breaks bread with Janet Leigh's gal on the run, and then, of course, breaks into her cabin and redecorates the bathroom with her visceral input. But that's not what makes the sequence so memorable. It's Anthony Perkins, brilliantly underplaying this lonely psychopath's fumbling, childlike need to connect with another human being, that makes the sequence both ominous and, more importantly, heartbreakingly genuine. Perkins' performance in that film set the psycho-bar impossibly high. For more than four decades, the horror genre has been trying and failing to top it, and so when handsome, awkward garage-park security guard Thomas (Bentley) offers to share his meager Christmas dinner with the late-leaving, workaholic Angela (Nichols) – and she declines – you realize right away there's going to be blood somewhere down the line, and it almost certainly won't be flowing from the Yuletide goose. P2 is, indeed, an odd bird of a film. Set entirely within the confines of a drab, generic parking garage (and occasionally in the equally dull, utterly random office tower above), it's a slow, steady, occasionally gripping yarn that builds tension via the most mundane ordeals of the workaday world. Angela, whose car won't start despite an early assist from Thomas, just wants to go home, but every conceivable exit is a dead end. And then there's that creepy security guard. Weirdsville, baby, weirdsville. P2 (the title comes from Angela's carport designation) plays on our collective unease with being alone, at night, surrounded by concrete and rebar, locked fire exits, and the lingering stink of exhaust that are the building blocks of every parking garage ever built. And up to a point, it does a fine job of ratcheting up the suspense via glimpses and echoes, and then more sadistic measures. Ultimately, though, and despite an enormously creepy turn from Bentley (American Beauty), the story has nowhere else to go but into the standard (albeit judiciously used) stalk-and-slash territory. Producers Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur, the team behind the cult French slasher film High Tension, may have here designed the perfect latter-day labyrinth, but their minotaur has nothing on Mrs. Bates.