P2 Review

Whether you believe the purpose of horror films to be social satire, criticism or terror matters little when the basic premise of the horror film is weaker than the moral it seeks to imbue. While message is capable of fighting the uphill battle against poor execution it rarely ends in victory. P2 loses this battle - miserably. The one good hit P2 lands against its poor premise is delivered by Wes Bentley.

Angela (Rachel Nichols) just wanted to go home for the holidays. Stranded in her office building, Angela searches frantically for someone to help her get out - only finding Thomas. Thomas is not the person you want to run into when you're a slender, blonde woman with no real hope of defending yourself.  To get the plot rolling, Thomas drugs Angela, puts her in a revealing dress and ties her to a chair. From this point out it's a game of cat and mouse with just enough blood and guts and tight, white dresses to keep the average teenager salivating. For anyone else, it's just a vapid story that betrays itself at the end.

What makes P2 unique is the way Thomas was written and how Wes Bentley played the role. Your average horror film would have made Thomas little more than a pervert living in his own little dungeon of a parking garage; they wouldn't have humanized him or given him actual intentions beyond wanting to torture and kill Angela. As it is though, Wes is the most developed character in P2 - which unto itself isn't utterly uncommon. After all, in the Friday the 13th or Halloween series we know more about the killers than any of the victims - it's not unusual in horror films. What sets P2 apart isn't the villain's development but rather his humanization. Wes Bentley made this film.

My resentment for P2 comes from the spoiling of this uniquely sympathetic villain as played by Bentley. For the majority of the film he makes it clear he doesn't want to hurt Angela and he holds true to that until he unleashes his dog on her? He even reverts back to his "I just want to hold hands and stare at you" mentality afterwards - but that singular act of unquestionable violence ruins it.

Considering she's the assumed main character, Rachel Nichols barely manages to hold her own against Bentley. She doesn't equal Bentley's performance but she doesn't just sit there like a trained monkey. She's believable and yet not good enough as an actress to make us care all that much. We find ourselves caring more for Thomas and his delusions of romance in his underground lair. I've noticed that I have a tendency to be harder on women than I am on men when it comes to acting, but in this case it's wholly justified.

Trying to identify the good elements in P2, you're left wondering where they come from. As Franck Khalfoun was a director and co-writer of P2 I feel confident in saying he doesn't deserve credit for where P2 excelled. The movie fails in the area of direction and I'm left suspecting that it was Alexandre Aja's contribution to the script that made Thomas the human being that he's portrayed to be. Aja's films, while wildly varied in quality, are at least written well-enough (usually).

DVD Bonus Features

None of the extra features on this disc, even with the inclusion of a few moderate length featurettes, have anything to say. The audio commentary is drab and uninteresting. "A New Level of Fear: The Making of P2" takes us behind the scenes and frankly, I couldn't care less. Neither will you unless you were profoundly moved by this empty thriller. "Tension Nouveau: Presenting Franck Khalfoun" is a self-celebratory piece for a director who deserves no such treatment.

Overall P2 doesn't thrill it just tires. The only conceivable reason to indulge in P2 is for Wes Bentley's performance and, in that case, there are countless better films to watch for good acting. I'm left wondering what the appeal of this sub-standard thriller could be.

"P2" is on sale May 19, 2008 and is rated R. Horror, Thriller. Directed by Franck Khalfoun. Written by Franck Khalfoun, Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur. Starring Rachel Nichols, Wes Bentley.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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