OCTOBER 29, 2007
In the early to mid 90s, there was a flood of “____ from Hell” movies. You take any regular profession (nanny, cop, temp) and assign it to a psychopath, and viola! Instant 40-50 million hit. They’ve since died out, but occasionally we get a movie like P2, which is essentially a “Parking Attendant from Hell” movie mixed with some light survival horror elements, courtesy of Alexandre Aja (who only produced and co-wrote this one, handing direction duties to Franck Khalfoun).
Unfortunately, Aja’s name brings higher expectations (even if I have problems with the 3rd acts of both of his films, there’s no denying he’s gifted, and one of the few dependable horror filmmakers of the decade), which are not fully met in this film. Not that it’s a bad movie by any means, but there is a surprising lack of, well, surprise in the film. For the most part, everything is very by the numbers, with an occasional curveball that serves to elevate the film enough to give it a recommendation.
For example, Rachel Nichols (and kudos to this incredibly beautiful actress for allowing herself to look rather un-hot for most of the film – a true rarity for her age bracket) never does anything really stupid in the film. Most of her decisions are logical and of the “what I would do” variety, at least within the confines of the somewhat absurd premise (we have to believe that no one else who has parked there plans to come back to their car, I guess). And when the film gets to the “turn the tables” point, she kicks ass in a great mini “car chase” around the garage. Also, when she swears, it sounds natural. Maybe I am in the minority, but most of my female friends swear just as much as I do (one even more so), yet whenever a film contains potty mouthed females, it sounds awkward and forced (Halloween remake being a prime example).
The film is relatively tame in terms of violence (the R rating comes mostly from the language), though there is a great, bloody kill about halfway through that’s one of the year’s most intense. However, and this gets somewhat problematic at times, Wes Bentley’s psycho fails to be very menacing in certain sections of the film, even in that kill scene. He’s not given any backstory or anything of that nature, which isn’t usually a problem for me, but here it seems like an easy way to avoid making his character consistent. He claims he’s not out to hurt anyone; that he’s just a lonely guy who has to go to extremes, but he sics his presumably violent dog on Nichols, and also kills another security guard who never did anything wrong (the aforementioned murder is of a guy who drunkenly made passes at Nichols, which at least sort of justifies Bentley’s actions). I would have liked to have seen Nichols’ character have some major flaws that sent Bentley haywire when he realizes she’s not the perfect being he imagined (shades of the underrated One Hour Photo), but the film never explores this idea. He’s crazy, she’s innocent, and that’s that.
Still, there’s enough off-kilter moments (a homeless woman’s response to Nichols’ cry for help is pretty much the best thing I’ve seen all year) and decent suspense/set pieces that make the occasional plot hole (how the FUCK does Bentley throw a body through the top of an elevator???) easier to swallow. It’s nice to know Aja can write a leveled film (as opposed to one that’s great for an hour or so and borderline terrible for the rest); but it’s a shame the results are so relatively “safe”. Let’s hope his next film finds a balance between the two extremes.
What say you?