Friday, December 25, 2015

Worth Mentioning - Way to Ruin Christmas

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody and Priscilla spend the holidays with an underrated thriller.

P2 (2007)

This is an article a year in the making. While I was visiting her in Brazil last December, my Remake Comparison Project collaborator Priscilla and I watched P2 together, took notes, and were all set to embark on writing an article on it when I returned to the U.S. Unfortunately, our plans were derailed by circumstances beyond our control, and we didn't end up writing about the movie last year. This December, I'm back in Brazil, Pri and I have watched P2 together again, and this time we can't be stopped.

Fresh off of very successfully remaking the Wes Craven classic The Hills Have Eyes in 2006, French filmmaker Alexandre Aja and his writing partner Grégory Levasseur teamed with their pal Franck Khalfoun, a hip hop music video director who had appeared as a murder victim in Aja's breakthrough film High Tension, to craft a movie inspired by news reports about women being attacked in Paris parking structures. The trio fleshed the idea out into a screenplay together, then set the project up as Khalfoun's feature directorial debut with Aja and Levasseur producing.

"P2" is a level in the parking structure that the film is almost entirely set inside of, and the movie opens on this level with a flash forward to a moment of suspense that will come much later in the running time.

I find this to be unnecessary, but at least it's better than if they had shoehorned in an opening kill sequence.

Definitely unnecessary, I think I was even confused for a second when I watched the movie for the first time. But between this and an opening kill sequence, I'll take this... gladly.

The film then goes back in time a few hours to introduce us to Rachel Nichols (a couple years removed from her appearance in the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror) as Angela Bridges, a Maine farm girl who has worked her way up to drafting multi-million dollar contracts at a business in New York City. It's Christmas Eve and Angela is having a hectic evening, working late doing revisions on an important contract, exchanging phone calls with her sister Lorraine about when she might make it to their family Christmas party in New Jersey... and receiving an awkward visit from her co-worker Jim, during which he apologizes for inappropriate behavior at a recent office party. She accepts the apology.

Angela is not only the last person to leave the floor her office is on, she's also among the last people to be leaving the building before it closes down for three days. On the elevator ride down to the lobby, she has a pleasant chat with a security guard named Karl.

Reaching parking structure level P2, Angela expects to be at her sister's place within twenty-five minutes. Unfortunately, her car won't start and a key card is required to get back into the elevator room, so she has to seek the help of the parking lot's sole security guard, Wes Bentley as Thomas.

Thomas seems like a nice guy, unsuccessfully trying to help Angela jump start her car before she moves on to her preferred option of taking the elevator back to the lobby and calling a taxi. Before the two part ways, Thomas asks Angela if she would like to join him for a small Christmas meal he has made for himself. It's an offer he brushes off as a joke when she has a blank reaction, although he leaves the door open for "maybe some other time."

When I first watched P2, I didn't know much about it at all, and this was the moment when I realized Thomas was up to no good. Before then, I thought he was genuinely trying to help. But the invitation to spend Christmas Eve with him was totally out of nowhere and inappropriate, especially considering how annoyed Angela was by then.

Karl is nowhere to be seen when Angela returns to the lobby. She calls a taxi, naps while she waits, and when the car arrives she finds that the doors are locked. She can't get outside. And the taxi doesn't wait very long before driving off for a different fare.

I love this part. It always makes me cringe seeing her carry all of those bags, the Santa suit, the big bear around from the car, to the car, out of the car again and then to the lobby, then back to the parking structure. It's all so frenetic, and then when she can't get the door open, it almost makes you want to go there and get the stupid thing busted or something.

Angela's frantic attempt to catch the cab leads her to seek assistance in the parking structure. Assistance she doesn't get. Instead, she finds herself trapped in there as the lights go out. Stumbling through the structure with only her cell phone screen to light her way, Angela is attacked and knocked unconscious. By Thomas.

When Angela comes to, she finds herself the unwilling guest of Thomas and his ill-tempered rottweiler Rocky. Thomas has changed her clothes, putting her in a low-cut dress, and chained her to a table in his office. As Angela struggles to keep her cool and not upset her captor, Thomas gets their Christmas dinner started.

It's a great approach that they didn't make Thomas a sleazy, over-the-top madman, but a guy who tries to be a nice host for his dinner guest. He's trying to woo this girl, not freak her out.

While that might have been his intention... maybe... he fails huge time. And the fact that he even put make-up on her is tremendously disturbing.

Struggling to keep her cool and not upset her captor, Angela spins a lie about having a serious boyfriend who must be on his way to pick her up. A lie that Thomas quickly deconstructs. Thomas knows a lot about Angela and wants to know a lot more. He has been observing her through the security cameras, obsessing over her, and has romantic intentions toward her.

The mention that Thomas has been reading a Hemingway story about a guy who loves a girl so much that he's willing to forgive anything that she does, "that's what love is supposed to be", gives some good insight into his mindset.

I find it so ridiculous that during their conversation/discussion there are times when Tom calls Angela rude. He plots to kidnap her, drugs her, and she's the one that's rude? Hrm.

Since Angela will be spending Christmas Eve with him, Thomas has her call her sister from his office phone to tell her that she won't be able to make it because she's not feeling well and might be coming down with the flu. When Angela convincingly pulls off the call, Thomas calls it the best Christmas present he has ever received.

I don't get this part. Earlier, when Angela calls her sister from the office, she knows Angela is not home because the caller ID shows a different phone number. Why didn't that happen this time? I know that her sister wasn't the one who picked up this call, but it's a given that you'd look at the number regardless.

Thomas gives Angela a present in exchange. A VHS recording of security cam footage - Angela's co-worker Jim trying to force himself on her in an elevator. It's the first half of a two-part gift that requires Thomas to unchain Angela and drive her further into the parking structure... During the brief moment when she's unchained, Angela takes the opportunity to sink a fork into Thomas's shoulder, but it's not enough for her to earn her freedom.

The second half of the gift is Jim himself, duct taped to an office chair. Thomas thinks the perfect present for Angela would be for her to beat Jim with a heavy flashlight and teach him a lesson for his sexual harassment.

Wow...what a present! He really knows how to give a girl exactly what she wants, doesn't he?

Instead of happily accepting this gift, Angela cries and pleas for Jim and does her best to humanize them in Thomas's eyes. It's no use. He knows they're people with feelings, just like he is.

I love the screaming, occasionally self-pitying tantrums Thomas throws from time to time, as he does here when he gets annoyed by Angela saying his name too many times.

You'd almost think they're a real couple. One of those couples who are always at each other's throats.

Realizing that Angela is better than beating someone with a flashlight, Thomas does it for her. It's his job to protect her. Then he smashes Jim with his car for good measure.

So, Jim "can't be touching every woman he wants", but it's okay for Tom to do what he's doing? Yeah, the guy needs a reality check, and a straitjacket.

Pretty heinous. Thomas doesn't take responsibility for his own actions, though. He blames his victims for ruining Christmas.

It's always someone else's fault. And this scene is so brutal... it's one of my favorites.

In the midst of the chaos, Angela escapes from Thomas's car and runs off into the parking structure. The second half of the film then becomes an extended cat and mouse chase sequence as Thomas pursues and keeps tabs on Angela and she desperately tries to find a way to escape into the city.

Sneaking past Rocky, Angela retrieves her cell phone and the key cards to the elevator room. She manages to get a call out to 911, although she loses her phone and a fingernail in the process. She then tries to catch a ride on an elevator, but it has been locked by Thomas... who communicates with her through the elevator's emergency system.

Thomas at first puts on a ridiculous, inappropriate accent to fool Angela, and it's really funny that it actually works.

Thomas asks Angela to give him a chance, she might grow to like him, maybe even love him. When she chooses to stay in the elevator instead, he uses a fire hose to pump water into the elevator shaft.

See, what's not to love?

As water fills the elevator, its ceiling collapses, dumping Karl's corpse into the elevator with Angela.

The fact that Karl was killed off screen is a sign of a sort of restraint that Aja didn't display in his Hills Have Eyes remake. I'm glad they did things differently here.

Though if you think about it, Tom would've had to act extremely fast to pull off murdering Karl before Angela made her way to the lobby. When Karl and Angela get out of the elevator with a few other people, Tom would've had to get him killed during the few minutes that Angela tries to get the car started. Doesn't seem possible.

The water is enough to drive Angela back out into the parking structure, where the stalking continues while Thomas complains about the fact that everybody just wants him to continue being alone all the time.

Thomas feels so secure in the fact that Angela can't escape from the parking structure that he even takes some time out to listen and dance to Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas".

Armed with a fire axe, Angela starts destroying security cameras and heads to Thomas's office for a fight. It's not the triumphant confrontation she's hoping for -

Angela wielding the axe did give the marketing department the imagery they centered the promotional materials on, though.

- mainly because she gets distracted by a couple things. First, a video of Thomas perving on her while she was unconscious -

Her rage watching the video is a very effective moment.

- and then a security cam view of two police officers arriving at the parking structure.

With Angela subdued and locked in the trunk of a car, Thomas lets the police officers take a look around. Angela does escape from the trunk, the flash forward moment the movie began with, but is too late to catch their attention.

Seeing Angela roaming around, Thomas decides to set Rocky loose on her... and is shocked when she kills the dog rather than let it maul her.

I don't like that they chose to have a dog involved in this way. Rocky is really only in the movie to make Angela's retrieval of the cell phone and key cards more complicated, and then to die in this scene.

I hate seeing animals getting killed off in horror movies, but I can't say I was too sad to see Rocky go. That wasn't a dog, that was a beast. And Angela had the chance to hurt him before, and chose not to. This time it was either her or him, it's not like she had a choice.

Infiltrating a car rental office on another level of the parking structure, Angela isn't able to get another 911 call made because all of the lines are busy, but she is able to get the keys to one of the vehicles parked in the lot.

Vehicular action ensues within the claustrophobic space, ending with Thomas and Angela's final face-off.

The final moment between Angela and Thomas is a bit too nihilistic and bloodthirsty for my taste. I'm all for villains getting their comeuppance, but maybe not such a painful one when they're essentially incapacitated.

I disagree. The horror Tom puts Angela through, mentally and physically, I don't blame her for finishing him off the way she did. And remember, she was going to walk away, until he displayed a bit more of his lovely personality.

P2 did not do very well at the box office when it came out in late 2007, which is a shame - it is a very solid thriller, and a movie that I actually enjoy more than the Hills Have Eyes remake that Aja had a hit with the year before. If only more people who had seen THHE had returned for P2.

Same here. I do not understand why P2 wasn't a hit. The movie has it all right when it comes to psychological thrillers, and the pace is perfect.

Taking the helm for his first feature, Khalfoun did a fine job, crafting an intriguing, suspenseful film that has no trace of his music video background in the way it was shot or edited.

Other aspects I really enjoy are the score and the atmosphere. They managed to make it feel Christmas-y even though the movie takes place in a parking structure.

What makes the film work most of all are the performances delivered by Rachel Nichols and Wes Bentley. P2 is, for the most part, a two character movie, and the actors do an excellent job carrying the movie. Nichols is a great heroine, and Bentley is awesome as Thomas.

They're both perfect for the roles. Rachel Nichols is so pretty and angelic, you wouldn't think there's such a fighter in her, and that's exactly what Angela needed as a character. Wes Bentley's performance is outstanding... he goes from awkward to creepy, to downright dangerous so easily. I love his range. The pair of them carry the movie effortlessly. And the type of chemistry they show is remarkable.

P2 is a well written, well acted, well crafted film. My only issues with it are the fact that a couple moments of violence make me feel uneasy. That may be unexpected coming from a horror fan like me, but I have some personal lines that come close to being crossed here. Still, it doesn't lessen my enjoyment of the movie overall.

Even though there are a couple of tiny things that are less than perfect, I can honestly say that nothing about P2 gets to me in a bad way. I really love the movie and have a great time watching it.

P2 is a movie that I would highly recommend to anyone who's in the mood to sit down and spend some time watching a good thriller and/or an unconventional Christmas movie. If you've missed out on it over the last eight years, check it out and see what you think.

I can't go through December without giving P2 a watch. Since the first time I watched it, it became one of my favorites, and a must during the holiday season. I look forward to seeing it every year. Everyone should definitely give a try if they haven't, it's more than worth it.

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