By Karen Benardello
Being trapped inside a dark, deserted parking garage on Christmas Eve, with the psychopathic security guard holding you hostage. Itâ€™s one of womenâ€™s worst nightmares, therefore having the potential to be the plot for the next great horror movie. But presently, itâ€™s harder to tell whatâ€™s more frightening: actually being in this situation, or sitting through the 97 minutes of the new horror/thriller movie “P2,” which has this very plot. The movie, which bills Wes Bentley and Rachel Nichols as its only actors, reunited director-writer Franck Khalfoun with screenwriters Gregory Levasseun and Alexandre Aja (they worked together on the 2006 remake of “The Hills Have Eyes”). But even this dream-team crew couldnâ€™t make “P2” a box-office success.
This movie, which filmed for only two months last fall, seemed destined to fail at the box office even before it was released on November 9. Khalfoun barely advertised it on TV and the radio; the main form of advertising was the trailer being streamed on MySpace. Itâ€™s likely the movieâ€™s distributor, Summit Entertainment, did not have enough money to advertise it, as the budget was only $8 million dollars.
Not only did Summit save money by barely advertising “P2,” it also saved by filming in Toronto, where movie production is cheaper than in New York, where the movieâ€™s supposed to take place. Also, it is likely Khalfoun hired Bentley and Nichols, who are lesser-known actors, so he wouldnâ€™t have to pay them as much as their A-list counterparts.
Besides wondering why Summit didnâ€™t pour much money into the movie, it’s easy to question Khalfounâ€™s motives. Why did he go along with barely advertising the movie? Was he trying to add to the mystery of the “parking-garage horror,” or did he know that the movie wouldnâ€™t be a hit? Also, why did he release a movie that took place on Christmas Eve two weeks before Thanksgiving, a time when many people havenâ€™t begun thinking of Christmas yet?
The movie follows Angela Bridges (played by Nichols), an ambitious young executive who works late on Christmas Eve. She works so late that sheâ€™s the last person to leave her office, and is extremely behind schedule in getting to her familyâ€™s celebration. When she gets to P2, the level in the parking garage where she parked, her car wonâ€™t start, and her cell phone doesn’t work. She asks Thomas (played by Bentley), the lone security guard on duty, to help her, and he tries to fix her car. After several unsuccessful attempts, he invites her to stay and have dinner with him, but she laughs it off.
Thomas unlocks the elevator room for her, and she rides to the ground level, where sheâ€™s able to call a taxi. However, sheâ€™s locked inside the building, so she goes back down to the garage. Thomas then takes her hostage, and tells her if she wants to see Christmas morning, she must eat and stay with him.
“P2,” which was rated R for strong violence/gore, terror, and language, doesnâ€™t compare to
“The Hills Have Eyes” or Aja’s 2003 directorial effort, “High Tension.” The audience can relate to the characters in the latter two movies, as the victims were working-class citizens who were struggling to survive while fighting their attackers. However, Angela wasnâ€™t given an in-depth back-story, so the audience members are likely to view her as a privileged executive who always gets what she wants. Since “P2” focused on the violence and gore instead of Angelaâ€™s physiological state-of-mind, the audience is unlikely to form an emotional bond with her.
Horror fans who enjoyed “The Hills Have Eyes” and/or “High Tension” may be tempted to see “P2,” as they may think it has the same plotline and emotions as the former two. However, the people who will likely enjoy it the most are Bentleyâ€™s fans, as he gives the same bad-boy performance as his break-out role in 2000â€™s Academy Award-winning best movie, “American Beauty.”