Newest Review: ... lurk around every pillar and I find myself walking hurriedly or even sometime running to the safety of my car. The thought of being trapped... more
Salem's (Parking) Lot
Member Name: plipplop
Advantages: Fast-moving and in exciting in its way
Disadvantages: The lead is a bit daft - and it is a film set in a car park
But what was supposed to be the end of a long day becomes the beginning of Angela's worst nightmare. Somebody is watching her every move and he has no intention of sharing her, this Christmas night.....
As French director Aleandre Aja's popularity has soared (thanks, largely, to his cult horror mind-f*ck Switchblade Romance), it would seem that Aja has not forgotten those who helped him make it. Directed by Franck Khalfoun, who had starred in Switchblade, P2 is also co-written by Aja himself, enabling the studio to lure us in with the ubiquitous "from the producers of Switchblade Romance" tagline. Let's be clear, P2 is no Switchblade, but if you're prepared to put to one side the inadequacies of the genre it's an entertaining enough slice of stalk and slash.
Aja clearly believed that by setting an entire film in a car park was a work of genius, when in fact, he has simply selected another "murder environment" that simply brings with it a different range of problems for our hapless victim. It's cold, it's dark and it's harsh, so it's not a particularly good place to find yourself alone at night with a psychopath. But that's exactly what happens to Angela. The trouble is that neither the director or the writer seems truly capable of utilising the environment in an innovative way and in fact, it's rather contrived. The car park has to be in the basement because otherwise there would a) be a mobile phone signal and b) you might be able to attract someone's attention. As such, Angela effectively staggers around lurching from one disaster to another and, for the first two-thirds of the film at least, generally gets right on your nerves. Worse still is the fact that the environment just doesn't ring true. Does the building have no fire exits or a fire alarm to be activated with a well-placed heel? The building's security systems seem conveniently weighted against the lead and this means that, in turn, the peril remains firmly in the fictional camp because the audience simply doesn't accept it.
In fairness, the pace of the narrative offsets some of the irritation, at least. Angela's introduction to the resident loony is, initially, friendly and innocent and whilst everybody at home might be thinking "cuckoo" she acts as one might in these circumstances. From there on, Kkalfoun and Aja gradually crank up the tension as Angela realises that who she thought might at first be a slightly clingy, but harmless worker is in fact a deranged killer called Tom. Her character, therefore, has to gradually adapt to this new crisis and the audience shares her journey.
Wes Bentley's Tom probably makes the film. It's not a particularly complex role, but demands severe changes in facial expression, body language and tone that Bentley grasps entirely. Whilst Tom is often charming (and quite handsome) the audience also struggles with this slightly eccentric character and initially finds it rather difficult to imagine that he poses any real threat until, that is, a rather significant shift in the narrative, when it becomes apparent that Aja can't make a film without at least one gooey bit. Rachel Nichols' Angela is also reasonably effective. As far as essential ingredients for a peril victim go she's pretty much got them all (she's beautiful, has hidden depths and very large breasts) and certainly convinces us that she's fighting for her life.
Sadly, one gooey bit aside, the narrative is often startlingly predictable and chock full of the genre clichés that you might expect somebody like Aja to avoid. The police are as useful as ever (does 911 REALLY have a queuing system for emergency calls?) Mobile phones are as pointless as ever and locks are as difficult as ever to pick until suddenly our hero seems able to disarm them in a flick of a wrist.
All of this aside, however, it's worth remembering that "peril" films are about just that; somebody in grave danger with all odds weighted against them, the entertainment to be derived from rooting for the victim. At this, at least, P2 is extremely effective. It romps along for the best part of 90 minutes, never really settling to draw breath and considering that most of the screen time is absorbed by two characters, in one dingy car park, it's surprisingly exciting. Crucially, knowledge of Aja's previous output also means that a happy ending is never assured and Aja's "anything goes" approach to story telling keeps you guessing.
P2's undoing is the fact that the audience simply doesn't respond to the danger into which Angela is thrust. It's simply too much of a stretch to accept the way the story plays out. But, the ability to suspend belief almost certainly guarantees the ability to appreciate this movie on a rather more superficial level and, in this way, it's certainly entertaining, in a gruesome kind of way.
Summary: Office worker gets locked in a parking lot on Christmas Eve - but she's not alone.....