Starring: Rachel Nichols, Wes Bentley, Simon Reynolds. Rated R.
Nyctophobia, or fear of the dark,
is a near-universal
phenomenon that has inspired stories by Edgar Allen Poe and Isaac Asimov; films
by John Carpenter and Wes Craven; and even an album by Iron Maiden.
It takes center stage
in P2, the bloody new thriller from Alexandre
Aja and Grégory Levasseur, the
French-born duo responsible for High Tension and a recent remake of The Hills Have Eyes. Joining them is first-time director Franck
Khalfoun, who starred in High Tension,
and while his technique may lack subtlety, it is far from
The question is whether you care to find out for yourself. P2
might have emerged, but for three
stunningly brutal acts of violence, as a throwback to old-fashioned thrillers
where mayhem was implied without being splattered across the screen. Mainly, it
is a tense, claustrophobic tale of hide-and-go-seek, set in an underground
parking garage ominously shrouded in shadow.
Angela (Rachel Nichols) is a corporate workaholic
spend a quiet evening with her family. Tom (Wes Bentley) is the lonely,
delusional parking attendant who watches her, yearningly, from afar. They meet
late one Christmas Eve when Angela’s car won’t start. He asks her to dinner,
she politely declines. Tom bristles at the blow-off, and before long Angela
finds herself chained to his desk.
The rest is easily guessed. Observing the tried-and-true
conventions of the genre, Angela tries first to reason with her captor, then to
escape him. She is cunning, clever, even diabolical when necessary, and Nichols
handles her transition from prim professional to desperate prey with as much
grace as possible. Bentley, on the other hand, escalates from creepy to
hysterical, and his tantrums make him seem more petulant than terrifying.
Still, the real star is
the garage itself, a subterranean
torture chamber masterfully shot by cinematographer Maxime Alexandre. Exploring
its pitch-black corridors and dimly lit dead-ends, P2 playfully exploits our natural fear of the dark as
well as any film in recent memory. Sure, it’s lurid and overblown, relying on
its lionhearted heroine never to play her most obvious escape card – the fire
alarm – but for those with a taste for such silliness, it makes for a harrowing
night at the movies.