Before P2, I never would have thought an underground car park would be a remotely interesting location for a horror film, or indeed any film. These sorts of preconceptions are made to be broken though, and P2 does a great job of first making its location interesting, then ratcheting up the suspense and excitement for an overall pretty pleasing hour and a half or so. Set on Christmas Eve, a committed career woman works late and finds herself unable to start her car.
Things really start to go wrong when she encounters a strange young security guard and declines his offer of Christmas dinner, driving him over the edge in doing so. This is pretty basic stuff, a cat 'n mouse horror thriller that supplies enough shocks and tension to work, bustling along at a decent pace with a reasonably likable protagonist and interesting villain. Wes Bentley is the crazy security guard here and he plays the role as if it fits him like a glove. Its a slick, easy turn, pulsing with low key weirdness and a whiff of latent savagery, he lacks the sinister chops to become truly menacing, but does succeed a a gripping presence. Rachel Nichols also does a good job, harried demeanour mounting to affecting desperation, she wrings out as much tension as she can and maintains sympathy throughout. Now you may be thinking at this point, so the acting is OK and its a decent formula plot, but how the devil does this thing get around being set in a car park? Well, its a matter of smart direction and cinematography. Regular Aja collaborator Maxime Sendre gives the setting a grey and impersonal look, a cold and unappealing place. Then he highlights the color painted signs on the otherwise white walls, with different colours for each level the signs catch the eye, a distraction from the monotony. Franck Khalfroun directs with a feel for the monotony, the unwelcoming, inhuman locale and its contrast with the action, the increasingly dangerous and violent hurly-burly of the film takes on greater effect because of the grim setting, the two characters standing out all the more just being alive. When you stir in the at times rather intense action, altogether it works fairly well. The film does slightly overstay
its welcome though. Its pretty thin stuff, like most cat 'n mouse thrillers of this sort, and it lacks the dynamic design, inspiration or out and out uncontrolled craziness that such a situation requires to stay interesting. Sure things are exciting and there's a terrific shock scene around halfway through, but after a while things do start to get repetitive and Wes Bentley's dialogue begins to slip into bathos. Essentially the film could happily have been shorn of 15 minutes or so and been a better experience, when the end comes it isn't
exactly a massive sigh of relief but the film is definitely starting to get long in the tooth. I was never exactly bored or displeased, but in the final third or so I was peering at the run time once or twice. Still, little faults aside this is good fun stuff and I'd recommend it, not a classic but certainly solid.