P2

Director: Frank Khalfoun

Starring: Rachel Nichols, Wes Bentley

With most horror movies, I don’t find myself wondering what’s happening inside the mind of the villain, what his motivations are, and so forth. Too many modern remakes make the mistake of taking the originally suspenseful story and altering it so that they can spend a good deal of time showing us exactly what made the killer what he is. So why is it, when an original story like “P2” comes along, that I should be so curious as to what pushed its antagonist into behaving as he does?

The movie begins on the night of Christmas Eve. In Manhattan, New York, a young businesswoman named Angela (Rachel Nichols) is finishing up some late night office work and is preparing to visit her family for the holidays. Unbeknownst to her, however, a sinister plot is underway to make sure she sticks around for a while. When she gets to her car down in the second level parking garage, she finds that it refuses to start. Angela looks for aid from the parking garage attendant named Thomas (Wes Bentley), but his jumper cables have no effect. Somehow this doesn’t sound off any alarms, although at the same time I can appreciate that Angela doesn’t automatically assume that her car has been tampered with. I can even understand how someone who is in as much of a hurry as she is could write off the fact that she can’t seem to unlock the front door to get to her hailed taxi cab as simply having a bad night. But she’d have to have figured something was up around the time that Thomas turned out all the lights in P2 after she returned to ask him to open the front gate of the parking garage. Moments later, Thomas knocks her out with chloroform, changes her out of her coat and work clothes into a lovely white dress and chains her to the table in his office.

When Angela wakes up and discovers her changes in scenery and appearance, Thomas very calmly sets up a Christmas dinner for the both of them to share. His first moment of cruelty (aside from the kidnapping, of course) comes when he forces Angela to call her family and lie to them about why she hasn’t and won’t be showing up. When he decides to take Angela for a ride in his car, she attacks him with a fork as he unchains her. Handcuffing Angela’s hands behind her back, Thomas takes her down to P4 where he has tied to a chair one of her co-workers who, in a drunken stupor, had attempted to force himself upon her in one of the office building’s elevators earlier that same evening. Thomas sees this man as evil for trying to have his way with Angela. For some psychos with a morality complex, beating the man’s face in with a small club would be enough… but not for Thomas. The piece de resistance of this beatdown is using his car to repeatedly ram the man, still tied to the chair, into the wall behind him until his insides are on the outside. When you consider that Alexandre Aja (director of “High Tension” and the 2006 remake of “The Hills Have Eyes”) is one of the film’s three screenwriters, you can guess that he probably had the most input into the gory details of this scene.

After witnessing this horrifying display of violence, Angela finally is able to escape Thomas’s custody, albeit still restrained by his handcuffs. She manages to slide her legs past the chain of the cuffs so that her arms can now at least face forward. As Thomas cleans up after himself on P4, Angela runs back to the office on P2 to grab her cell phone and Thomas’s key cards. At the front gate on P1, she finally manages to get a signal on her cell phone and tries to call the authorities, but drops her cell phone through the gate and can’t get to it. With a returning Thomas on the way, Angela runs for the elevator which she locks in place so she can call for help from the panel inside. The voice on the other line, unfortunately, is Thomas. He flushes her out with the aid of a fire hose, and then drops the dead body of the building’s other security guard through the roof of the elevator. Both the body and Angela are thrust into the hallway when the elevator opens up. Angela then proceeds to smash all the nearby surveillance cameras with an axe while Thomas plays “Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley over the loudspeakers. He couldn’t have found a more appropriate mood setter if he’d chosen “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. Angela returns to Thomas’s office expecting to find him there. Thomas is nowhere to be seen, however he has a video cued up of him molesting her and applying lipstick to her lips as she was lying unconscious earlier on. Her response, obvious though it may be, is to smash the TV with the axe. She lingers in the office for far too long, and Thomas shows up to zap her with a taser and stuff her into the trunk of her non-functional car.

Just then, two police officers show up in response to Angela’s emergency call. Satisfied that they have found nothing incriminating, Thomas allows them to leave instead of kiling them with the axe he has kept close by. As they leave, Angela busts out of her trunk and attempts to catch up to them, but finds Thomas and his Rottweiler waiting for her at the front gate. Chased, Angela manages to kill the dog by stabbing it in the neck with a tire iron. She then enters a rental office to call 911, but is interrupted and forced to drive off in one of the rental cars. A furious chase ensues (with an enraged Thomas following in his own car), ending in a game of chicken which Angela wins, but she winds up flipping her car over soon after. Feigning injury, Angela allows Thomas to get just close enough to stab him in the eye. Stealing Thomas’s taser and keys, Angela finally rids herself of the handcuffs, chaining Thomas to the car instead. She’s quite content to leave him like that until he calls her a not so nice word that begins with “C.” Angela responds by using the taser to ignite the trail of gasoline leading from the car, Hollywood-style. This engulfs a screaming Thomas in flames, but his suffering is short-lived when the car suddenly explodes. Her ordeal finally over, Angela opens the front gate using Thomas’s keys and goes on foot into the freezing cold Manhattan streets.

When this movie originally came out, I watched it strictly for Rachel Nichols, with whom I was familiar at the time for her work in the final season of the American spy series “Alias,” and have since enjoyed her as the lead in the Canadian sci-fi series “Continuum.” That, and I love any horror movie which makes a genuine attempt at creating a claustrophobic atmosphere, which “P2” does quite well. But I also came to appreciate Wes Bentley’s performance as well. As I said, I surprised myself by wondering what circumstances made Thomas who he was. The thought occurred to me that while Thomas is clearly crazy, obsessive and evil, what isn’t quite clear is what had made him this way. Was it the pressures and loneliness of his job? Had he been the type who’d been scorned so often in his youth that he’d become so afraid as to be unable to interact normally with women? Was Thomas the product of a strict, repressive moral upbringing that so emotionally scarred him as to explain his evolution into something of a violent, sexual deviant? Or was he simply born with a few wires crossed? The movie never tells us one way or another, and I find that I like that because I come away with questions to which I can feel free to supply my own answers.

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Comments
  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Regardless of the mystery surrounding Thomas’s past, at least Angela and the film viewers get a very satisfying end for Thomas when he taunts her into blowing him up “real good!” I like Rachel Nichols, too, thanks to Continuum. I also like a film with a strong, kick-ass, resourceful woman.

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