It’s Christmas Eve, and Angela (Rachel Nichols) is looking forward to getting away from the office and to her sister’s family’s home so she can relax after a hectic week. However, she still has a lot to do, and keeps being interrupted by her assistant and one of her colleagues, Jim (Simon Reynolds), who is keen to apologise for sexually harassing her during the Christmas party recently. She would rather forget it so tells him to do the same, returning to her work, but by the point it is anywhere near finished the hour is late and she is about the only employee left in the building. She calls her sister and tells her she’ll be there in about half an hour, then sets off for the underground parking lot – but when she reaches her car it won’t start.
There’s a reason for that, and it isn’t a good one. Though you’d never know it from the most nondescript title ever, P2 was one of that subgenre, the Yuletide horror movie, seriously they could have come up with a more festive name than that, sinister or jokey or otherwise. It was brought to the screen by some of the same team as the people behind gore-drenched cult hit Haute Tension, or Switchblade Romance as it might be better known in some territories, and while this did not attain those levels of bloody mayhem, it was better than you might expect from what was basically a cat and mouse around an empty office block thriller, or what that description might suggest.
Nichols was the mouse, not for the last time showing off her interest in roles that stretched her in a genre format rather than some weighty drama that many of her contemporaries may have settled upon, and the cat was someone who had well-publicised struggles with a drugs problem which he was right in the middle of when he made this. Wes Bentley played Thomas, the parking attendant who harboured a crush on Angela and was willing to go to extreme lengths to catch her attention – or simply catch her, which he does under the pretence of helping her out when the evening starts to go awry, largely thanks to his machinations that see her locked into the building. And chained to a chair in his office.
Thomas could have been quite sweet in other circumstances, but in this case his loneliness has sent him crackers, and his dating techniques are farcically rusty, so he has kidnapped Angela in the hope that she will share a Christmas dinner with him rather than her family – to prevent her sister’s suspicions being raised he forces her to call and make up an excuse that she has the flu. This rather pathetic personality for your movie psycho was at least an attempt at something different, but meant Bentley wasn’t wholly convincing when his character turned brutal, so you never had the impression he was losing himself in the part, not like Nichols had committed to hers with such dedication that it lifted the experience impressively.
The director was Franck Khalfoun, who went on to flex his muscles in a few thrillers with horror elements, and he had penned the script with the Haute Tension creators Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur to bring out the claustrophobia of Angela’s plight: time and again she would be trapped in confined spaces like the back of a car or an elevator while hiding not entirely successfully from Thomas. In his twisted mind he was being thoughtful, even getting her a Christmas present though his idea of something she would like was considerably less goodwill to all men and considerably more no goodwill whatsoever to one man in particular. Wisely the filmmakers did not add too many (sleigh) bells and whistles to what was a fairly straightforward yarn, and Christmas did not feature too heavily – though the villain dresses as Santa Claus at one stage, this wasn’t a Silent Night Deadly Night sequel by any means. As Angela draws on resources she didn’t know she had, this did tend to become one of those horrors where the antagonist and protagonist spend a lot of the time stumbling about in pain, and her mountainous cleavage-baring dress was a tad cynical to keep us watching, but P2 wasn’t bad at all for what it was. Music by tomandandy (with some well-placed Elvis Presley).