Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #299
Number of Views: One
Release Date: November 9, 2007
Country of Origin: United States, Canada
Box office: $7,766,240
Running Time: 98 minutes
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Producers: Alexandre Aja, Erik Feig, Grégory Levasseur, Patrick Wachsberger
Screenplay: Alexandre Aja, Franck Khalfoun, Grégory Levasseur
Special Effects: Reg Ashby, Damon Bishop, François Dagenais, Brock Jolliffe, Rudy Rivas, John Sandever, David Antonacci
Cinematography: Maxime Alexandre
Editing: Patrick McMahon
Studios: P2 Productions, Summit Entertainment
Distributor: Summit Entertainment (US), Destination Films (UK)
Stars: Rachel Nichols, Wes Bentley, Simon Reynolds, Grace Lynn Kung, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Philip Akin, Philip Williams, Arnold Pinnock
Suggested Audio Candy
 Elvis Presley “Blue Christmas”
 tomandandy “Melisma Alleluia”
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the parking lot, not a creature was lurking… apart from a demented security guard and a ravenous rottweiler with the taste of balls on its lips. Looks like Santa isn’t the only one looking to empty his sack this yuletide, as there’s somebody else lurking under the mistletoe and his baubles have the most delightful sheen. For the hapless Angela, working overtime in her high-rise office block when she should be knocking back egg nog, that family party is beginning to look like an increasingly distant proposition. She’s victim of a lock-in; trapped on the lower floors of the underground garage while all her colleagues head off to enjoy the festivities. Thankfully there’s a kindly parking attendant on-hand to keep her company.
Franck Khalfoun’s directorial debut P2 is a taut psychological thriller all set within the confines of a single building which has variable weapons in its armory. He went on to make the magnificent Maniac in 2012 which should tell you all you need to know about the madness he is willing to court. Here he keeps it tightly bound to the leash for the most part and instead focuses on the progressively perilous plight of one particularly plucky prima Donna. Instead of pummeling our senses with inhospitable moments of brutality at every turn, he keeps it to a premium, thus punctuating the quietude forcefully and to maximized effect. When blood spillage is necessitated, all we need to know is that Alexandre Aja is on-hand and he thinks nothing of siphoning the coulis of innocents.
In less capable hands, P2 likely would have been taken down with the decorations on the twelfth day but Aja, Khalfoun and fellow screenwriter Grégory Levasseur know how to spin plates and do so with barely a wobble throughout its 98 minutes. Shot over a two-month period in a real working Toronto parking garage, Khalfoun’s film keeps us penned in from the moment we hang up our stocking and, aided by Maxime Alexandre’s sparsely lit photography, manages to create the correct sense of escalating consternation. Its insular trappings are commendably stifling and our distressed damsel’s hopes repeatedly dashed to exhibit the distinct lack of Christmas cheer we are hoping for. Survival is key here and the environment merely forms the playground for Angela’s woes; it’s the personnel that really scuppers her hopes of making any family festivities.
The movie’s hopes of resonating lay squarely on the shoulders of our two leads and they both prove utterly indispensable in their roles. Rachel Nichols has a vaguely Jodie Foster-like quality to her which serves her remarkably well considering the locale resembles something of an oversized panic room. From the offset it is clear that she isn’t lacking in scruples and neither is she a shrinking violet. Instead of blundering from one pratfall to the next hysterically and being consistently culpable of making bogus choices, she uses the smarts her parents gave her and proves both resourceful and resentful in equal measures. After being chloroformed, changed into a silk slip and chained to a dinner table while Thomas rattles on about selecting bathroom colors and matching hand towels, she decides to call time on their blossoming relationship. Like a female John McLane, she is determined to bag herself some turkey sandwiches and will stop at nothing to make that waning ambition a reality.
Without a bankable villain of the piece it would all amount to precious little but our resident nutbag Thomas is pitched with precision; acting as formidable gatekeeper to Angela’s freedom and remaining utterly ignorant of each rebuff to his advances. One would imagine that Wes Bentley’s melancholic turn as Ricky Fitts in American Beauty convinced Khalfoun as to his suitability for the role of doubting Thomas as he seems entirely fixated with his own idyllic little world… one where he and long-term crush Angela live happily ever after and spawn 2.1 children. Hell, he’s so sidetracked knocking up the white picket fence and positioning the bird bath that he fails to see the numerous red flags heading in his direction. Actually, he sees them loud and clear but figures that he still has the remainder of the evening to win the object of his obsession over and just won’t take no for an answer.
Bentley gives it his all and this proves more than enough to keep us invested. One minute he’s nice as pie; the kind of boy you’d take home to meet your parents and, the next, he’s dry humping mom’s disembodied head and offering his Rottweiler sloppy seconds. We all know the type; oblivious to any mental health quirks and blissfully unaware that he isn’t quite the catch he thinks he is. This provokes moments of black comedy which provide respite from the intensifying dread and allow us to marvel at his unmitigated delusion. After putting his girlfriend-to-be through the ringer and making her privy to his sporadic acrimony, he is still calling her honey and planning ahead for new year. When his point isn’t relaying effectively enough he snaps like a softwood see-saw with John Goodman one end and Sally Field on the other… and don’t even think of fucking with his pooch.
It’s basic cat-and-mouse stuff heightened by stellar performances, slick direction and a refusal to rely on lightning fast edits and constant jolts to engage its addressee. There’s nothing we haven’t seen countless times before and a lot depends on whether or not you can accept fresh-faced pretty boy Bentley as a sadistic fuck. However, P2 doesn’t falter as could so easy have been the case and holds our attention for its entire running time, including a fitting end where their affiliation runs its natural course and we receive suitable closure. Khalfoun’s tale of unrequited love and misplaced tinsel gives us one more reason to dread the holiday season and acts as respectable foil for countless reruns of Miracle on 34th Street and pulling cheap ass crackers. Bah Humbug!
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Random acts of violence are that much more gratifying when fleetingly implemented and P2 has some real doozies. The moment when Angela’s flirtatious boss Karl receives the Intel that he won’t be making it home for the holidays is gruesomely realized and prolonged and there are a number of other instances to savor. Where Red Eye pulls back and apologizes for any unruly acts, P2 flicks the bird and continues to misbehave. Moderation only serves to ram the brutalities home further.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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