Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Movie Review: P2

Sometimes theatrical trailers, word of mouth, and positive critical reviews cannot do a movie justice. Sometimes a movie is so powerful, inspiring, hilarious, or suspenseful that it must be seen in order to understand what all the rage is about. Such moments are what make the movie-going experience so memorable.

P2 is not such a movie. With a complete lack of humor or suspense, a laughably over-the-top villain, and a predictable ending, P2 is the worst pseudo-horror movie I’ve seen since the abysmal remake When a Stranger Calls. At least that movie featured one of the coolest movie names ever: Mandrakis. I lived off answering my phone by saying “Mandrakis residence” for weeks.

P2 stars Rachel Nichols as Angela, a hard-working gal who suffers work-related indignities in one of the upper floors of a typical New York skyscraper. On Christmas Eve, while her coworkers are wearing reindeer antlers and getting their drink on in the true holiday spirit, she’s stuck in her spacious office trying to resolve an obnoxious customer’s complaint. In between sputtering out Business Bullshit Bingo clich├ęs and fending off unwanted drunken sexual advances from a male coworker, she’s desperately trying to make it to her parents’ home for a little Yuletide frivolity.

You see, Angela’s a good girl with good intentions, but gosh darn it, she’s always missing family commitments because of her demanding job. She’s also nice to her personal assistant, has no social life or boyfriend, and wears her hair in a tight bun, so we’re supposed to like her.

Things go from bad to worse for her when she finally leaves work and heads to (sinister music, please) parking garage level P2, where her car is parked. She turns the ignition, and in a revolutionary twist never before seen in the horror movie genre, her high-priced Germany luxury car won’t start. Eventually she wanders into to the security office, where she encounters Tom (played by Wes Bentley), the garage’s security attendant. He’s socially awkward, clearly sexually frustrated, wears a dweeby uniform, has a vicious pet dog named Rocky, and sports an outdated haircut, so clearly he’s up to no good. Of course, Angela misses all these clues.

After Tom unsuccessfully attempts to “help” Angela start her car (I am not speaking metaphorically here), she dejectedly calls a cab and waits in the office lobby for the cab to arrive. In another revolutionary twist never before seen in the horror movie genre, she finds that she cannot exit the building because the doors are locked. Despite her protestations, the poor cabbie drives off, and Angela finds herself again trapped in the parking garage on Christmas Eve.

From here, the garage’s lights go off and she’s quickly snatched by Tom, who takes her back to his office, complete with Rubik’s cube, tiny microwave, and Elvis Presley figurine (never a good sign in a movie), and chains her to a chair. When she finally wakes up (Tom drugged her, you see), Angela’s scantily clad in a slip and at the mercy of the security officer, who offers her food, wine, and a whole lot of awkward, thinly-veiled threatening questions. For his trouble, Tom gets a fork jammed in his back courtesy of the feisty Angela when she tries to escape. Ah yes, the seeds of true love always begin with a fork to the back.

Too many stereotypical horror movie staples to regurgitate here then ensue. Tom brutally murders the man who drunkenly accosted Angela in the elevator, in a scene with enough unnecessary gore to rival the Saw franchise. With a truly laughable catchphrase – “Thanks for ruining Christmas” – which Tom says to his various victims, Tom apparently has every psychosis in the book, and makes the villains from Dean Koontz’s absurd novels seem believable.

For added measure, Tom has random outbursts in which he screams violently and irrationally, with dialogue that sounds like a college freshman’s attempt at existentialist writing. And in one truly horrifying scene, Tom performs a karaoke version of Elvis Presley singing “Blue Sunday.” I am not making this up.

Eventually Angela escapes from the evil Tom’s nefarious clutches, pulls herself together, and manages to handcuff Tom to a crashed rental car (synopsis: game of chicken, Angela displays Girl Power, Tom the Super Villain gets cold feet and swerves, cars flip, Tom hobbles out of his car, Angela jams a shank into Tom’s eye). She’s about to walk out of the garage when Tom, because he’s such a bad guy, calls her a name that rhymes with “bunt.” And as the saying goes, “Hell hath no fury like a woman called a name that rhymes with ‘bunt’.” Angela torches the car that Tom is cuffed to, and by extension, Tom. Massive explosion, Angela gimps outside into the snow of New York, cop cars and ambulances come speeding in her direction, end scene.

With needless gore, a truly absurd villain whose parents must have done a number on him, a complete lack of humor, and a paint-by-numbers plot, P2 will quickly be relegated to the dustbin of lousy, forgettable horror movies. Look for it on the USA channel in a few years.

But remember, if you find yourself lost in a parking garage late at night, be afraid. However, if you find yourself lost in a parking garage late at night and being pursued by folks with video cameras on Christmas Eve, be very, very afraid. It’s a sequel.

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