P2 (2007)


Take every "psycho chases girl" movie you've ever seen, whittle it down to its barest semblance of a narrative, and set the thing in an underground parking garage. That's the long and short of P2, a listless, inert, obvious, and fairly distasteful horror flick from a pair of young filmmakers who really ought to know a little better. High Tension / Switchblade Romance creators Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur are credited as co-writers and producers on P2, so let's not lay all the blame on first-time director Franck Khalfoun -- but there's barely enough material here to fill a half-decent episode of Alias, let alone a 97-minute horror movie.

Rachel Nichols plays Angela, a mega-nubile young professional gal who catches the eye of a blandly creepy parking attendant called Tom. The setting is a deserted parking garage on Christmas Eve. And Tom has chosen tonight to make his move.

From the three sentences I just gave you, I bet you could sit down and write a screenplay that reads a lot like P2. Angela gets chained down. She tries to escape by jabbing Tom with a fork. He shakes it off and gets a little angry. Then there's a whole lot of circuitous chit-chat before we get down to an arbitrary (an unnecessarily lurid) murder and then 40 minutes of footage in which Rachel Nichols runs around in a low-cut (and often wet) white dress while the amazingly unscary Wes Bentley wanders around and screams ANGELA approximately 1,217 times. A few red herrings pop up, and we can sense the director trying to bring some sort of tension to the proceedings, but the simple truth is that P2 is an ABC Movie of the Week with a few extra gore scenes tossed in just to earn some street cred. (In that way, P2 is a lot like this year's Captivity, although not nearly as awful. 84 minutes of generic thriller tedium, punctuated by a few random infusions of unimpressive gore and/or nastiness.)

The lovely Rachel Nichols could be the next Meryl Streep for all we know, but all she's asked to do in P2 is run, fall, shriek, cry, seethe, scream, and whimper. To say her role is woefully underwritten is to imply it was written in the first place. As for the nostril-tastic Wes Bentley, what can be said? The guy has two speeds here: 1. Petulant and 2. Miffed. Notice that "creepy," "scary," or "disturbing" was not on that list. His character seems to be coasting on excess fumes left over from his villainous role in Ghost Rider. And that's not a compliment.

How the guys responsible for one of the most ferocious French imports ever made have turned around to rubber-stamp such an aimless and obvious enterprise ... well, everyone has an off day once in a while. Here's hoping that Aja and Levasseur take on something a little more unconventional their next time out, because P2 is about as basic and unmemorable as a horror flick gets. Genre completists will want to give it a half-hearted rental some day, but don't go in expecting much more than a (slightly) creepy setting, a few spurts of gore, and a Wes Bentley performance than unravels quicker than a sweat-shop quilt.