On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me…
P2 (2007), directed by Franck Khalfoun.
Angela Bridges (Rachel Nichols) just wants to leave the confines of her office and get home to see her family on Christmas Eve. It’s late, and everyone has already gone home. Escorted to the parking garage by the buildings security guard Karl (Philip Akin), Angela discovers that her car is dead. Thinking it’s the battery, she enlists the help of Thomas (Wes Bentley), the garages unassuming yet boyishly handsome security guard. Shortly after, Angela awakens in Thomas’ office, chained and confronted with the fear that her car might not be the only thing dying tonight. Trapped and hunted, Angela begins a desperate fight through the floors of a parking garage, mustering up more than Christmas cheer.
The parking garage, it’s like the basement you’re always afraid to go in as a child (and adult); it’s cold, dark, and harbors unseen threats that lurk in the shadows. Except how real it is, acting as a common factor in millions of lives. What makes it so terrifying is how occupied and unassuming it is in the day, acting merely as a storage locker for peoples vehicles. But by the time the work day is over and the sun has disappeared, it’s managed to shift into a claustrophobic and intimidating cement cell block, where each shadow is a leering inmate.
Now statistically, 25% of rapes occur in public places such as a parking garage, which while terrifying, makes them the perfect location for a horror film. In P2, directed by Franck Khalfoun , written by Alexandre Aja and produced by Gregory Levasseur (who all worked together on some of horrors most recent breakouts, including Haute Tension and Maniac), the horror of the parking garage is used to this effect, acting like one woman’s battleground, and a home for one lonesome killer. Think of it as the Camp Crystal Lake of the working class, instead of a machete wielding ex-camper who also happens to be a momma’s boy, you have a Taser wielding security guard who also happens to be a momma’s boy. The parking garage is their home, a womb keeping them warm and hungry, as well as raving mad.
Enter Thomas, a seemingly harmless security guard who treats his office like a dorm room, littering it with food, papers, and even his dog Rocky. He’s eager to help Angela out, so much in fact that he tinkers with her car beforehand, forcing her to seek him out. Though it isn’t her car Thomas wants to help her out with, it’s pretending to be her savior, going as far as to kidnap one of her coworkers who made unwelcomed advances at the company Christmas party. This is where things would normally take an ugly (and shockingly gruesome) turn, if it wasn’t for the fact that Thomas already drugged and sexual assaulted Angela, a reveal we learn later through a video tape.
Throughout Angela’s assault, kidnapping and torture (both mentally and physically), she peels back the layers that comprise that office drone, that workaholic who skips family gatherings because the job called. It’s a metamorphosis that doesn’t carry with it wings or claws, just one exhausted core of a woman who is simply fed up with men. Men who seem to make excuses for their actions (“I had too many drinks” or “I just wanted to be a friend”), who twist scenarios to their advantage, and boy has this one gone too far!
Wes Bentley, who brings some of that leftover post-altar boy psychosis that rested behind alluring eyes in American Beauty, really digs his heel into Thomas, crafting one of the most infuriating villains in horror history. Time and time again, we are force fed self-righteous hang-ups and hypocritical notions of moral superiority that we simply want out from the clutches of this loner. It adds to our anticipation of his demise, though unfortunately P2 spends much of its time with Thomas that he eventually starts playing the same note over and over again. Where most of these films deal with a masked slasher stalking, Khalfoun’s film deals with an unmasked slasher talking. After a while, we begin to yearn for the silent types that skulked around darkened woods.
But that’s where Alexandre Aja separates itself from the slasher, focusing on the suspense of the game, rather than ratcheting up a grizzly kill count. This is a dimly lit cat and mouse game in a locked down parking garage, where Aja is less interested in gory deaths and more about the desperate measures someone takes to survive. Angela is very much a strong independent woman, one who stands up for herself (as seen in the elevator altercation between her coworker), but she’s also a product of tolerance. She’s worked her way up the office ladder due to perseverance, patience, and acceptance, though it’s ultimately a man’s world, where even their power resides in the bowels of a parking garage. Except this time, men have gone too far!
While Angela’s struggle and transformative battle between the opposite sex carries with it a stark one-two punch, it’s the stories inability to let Thomas become the festering sociopath he truly is that ultimately sends P2 spiraling. Throughout its 93 minute run time, Aja’s script lingers on Thomas as a product of his loneliness, essentially living, breathing and working within the confines of this parking garage. It’s as if he hasn’t seen the outside world, remaining within the walls of his mother’s womb, seeking, defending and eventually betraying the nearest woman that’s unfortunate enough to walk into his lair. Once the credits roll, and we’re subjected to goofy blooper-esque Polaroid’s of Thomas, it becomes unclear whether the filmmakers want sympathy for another murderous and sexually oppressive male, or his guts leading the way to safety.
Despite these conflicting and troubling elements, P2 is still a suspenseful entry into the slasher genre, despite only racking in a body count of three (one of them being a dog). It’s sharp color palette of bleeding blues and greys separate the obvious Christmas colors, a setting that features Angela brandishing an ax to the sounds of Elvis’ ‘Blue Christmas’. Its holiday backdrop adds a layer of hopefulness to it, as Angela eventually emerges from the parking garage a new woman, one that tells men that baby, it’s colder in here.