Opening in theaters on Nov. 9th!
Rachel Nichols as Angela Bridges
Wes Bentley as Thomas
Simon Reynolds as Bob Harper
Directed by Franck Khalfoun
In the land of genre films, Christmas is a relatively untapped resource. On one hand we have our throwaway Santa slashers, including the “Silent Night Deadly Night” franchise, as well as a few others whom shall not be mentioned (here’s lookin’ at you Goldberg and your “Santa’s Slay” nonsense.) On the other hand we have the definitive, end-all be-all Christmas, and possible slasher sub-genre, horror film of all time, the legendary “Black Christmas.”
But regardless, I would be hard-pressed for anyone to name a fresh and creative Christmas treat for us horror fans that has graced us in the past twenty years. I was quite surprised by the remake to “Black Christmas,” both through its gore-laced antics and thick black-humor from “Final Destination” vets James Wong and Glen Morgan, yet this still does not quite qualify due to its remade nature and understandably crappy filmmaking outside of B-movie land.
Quite frankly, it seems as though few films really have the balls necessary to venture into this sweet ‘lil Christian holiday and spill blood all over it. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the time has come. Thanks to Alex Aja and company we can now add a very bizarre and surprising name to the Christmas horror repertoire, “P2.”
The marketing for “P2” would have you believe that the film is nothing but a cheesy premise, that of a girl being stalked in a parking complex. Well, surprise, as “P2” is possibly the best Christmas horror film in years, delivering the goods necessary to raise itself above its lackluster premise and bizarre marketing campaign.
With the help of director Alexandre Aja (“Haute Tension”, “The Hills Have Eyes”), here serving as co-writer and producer, first time film director Franck Khalfoun unleashes an intense and creepy tale of cat and mouse set inside the fresh setting of an underground parking structure. The film aims to appeal to our inherent fear of the dark and claustrophobia similar to the way “Jaws” struck a nerve with our fear of the water. Thankfully, “P2” is incredibly successful in hitting both fears right on the head.
The parking structure is almost a character itself in “P2,” harkening back to the good ol’ days of haunted houses serving their respective films in very much the same way. Cinematographer Maxime Alexandre, who also served Aja on “Haute Tension” and “The Hills Have Eyes” works magic in “P2”, striking a perfect balance between light and dark, with a heavy emphasis on the latter.
The genius in “P2” is its simplicity. An age-old story of cat and mouse, only two real main characters and a brisk pace act as the perfect recipe for an effectively suspenseful genre piece. It is refreshingly devoid of any fluff; no unnecessary subplots, no pointless characters serving only as slasher fodder and, in an epic change for Aja, no unnecessary, ridiculous plot twists!
Speaking of which, Aja’s trademark ultra violence and blood splatter is present and accounted for, though more modest and, dare I say, tastefully executed than his previous entrees into the horror world. The scenes of gore are few and far between but when they hit, they slap your ass until you scream for daddy.
Wes Bentley channels Norman Bates through his level and surprisingly restrained performance that is nonetheless very, very creepy. In an interview, Bentley admitted that he held up “The Shining’s Jack Torrance as his primary influence. Did he succeed? Not quite, yet this is not a bad thing, as Bentley instead created one of the most ridiculous, original and all around bizarre villains this side of Dennis Hopper in “Blue Velvet.”
Rachel Nichols, who has never since had such a large role in a film, was very intimidated by the two-character nature of the film, yet carries “P2” opposite Bentley with ease. In a lovely surprise, her character’s development is actually worth noting, as we see a normal woman sink into the genuine thrones of fear and depravity.
“P2” is one of the most pleasant and wonderful surprises of the year. It’s biggest surprise is quite frankly the most depressing, as I found the most original element of “P2” to be its character driven nature, focusing on simple storytelling instead of ridiculous gimmicks and plot twists.
While the simplistic nature of the film could drive off some viewers, I applaud the filmmakers for creating something primal and devoid of any MTV-inspired epileptic absurdity. “P2” crafts suspense and tension not unlike Aja’s previous efforts, and I am proud to say that even the moderate inclusion of a little thing called “suspense” elevates it above the recent barrage of torture porn nonsense. In an age of impending “Saw” V and VI, “P2” represents a breath of fresh air into our beloved genre and a continually bright future for Alexandre Aja and company.