In late-1980s America, there was a rash of crimes that occurred in parking lots or were instigated from parked cars. Women and children were told to stay away from parked vehicles that looked suspicious and warned against going near parking lots after dark.
Cinematically speaking, parking areas and/or parked cars have been deployed for some pretty scary stuff — one of the masterly executed scenes in “Silence of the Lambs” shows a young woman pausing to help a man (whose arm is artfully encased in a plaster cast) trying to load furniture in the back of a van. Her kindness is her undoing; the man attacks her, stuffs her in the vehicle and drives away.
By now you’d think mankind would have moved on, but “P2″ shows how very little the parking lot and the fear it can instill has changed. The spookiness remains intact — it’s still not a place you can feel comfortable venturing in, alone and after dark.
Directed by Franck Khalfoun, “P2″ pretends to be nothing other than B-minus entertainment, unabashedly banking on the three factors that make a successful, B-A-D horror movie: sleaze, gore and a psychopath in the guise of a nice, unassuming kinda guy. In this case he’s Tom (Wes Bentley of “American Beauty” fame), a security guard nursing a giant crush on the young, attractive executive Angela (Rachel Nichols), who works in his office building.
Unbeknown to her, Tom has been watching Angela on security cameras for the past couple of months, checking out her every move and facial expression as she gets on and off elevators, greets colleagues, goes off to lunch, etc. Yuck.
Then, on Christmas Eve, Angela finds herself completely alone. She’s been working against the clock to make it to a restaurant dinner with her family and hurries to the parking lot, only to find that her car won’t start. Tom comes ambling over, offering to take a look under the hood. He invites her to dinner, but she brushes him off politely and calls a cab. You can guess the rest.
Tom steals up with a chloroform-soaked cloth and when Angela wakes up she’s chained, dressed in a white dress with a plunging neckline to match Niagara Falls, and sitting in front of a table where a romantic dinner for two has been laid out. Admittedly, the venue is the security office in the corner of the basement parking lot, but otherwise you could say the guy has really gone out of his way to set up this date, in the hope of making Angela happy.
Unfortunately for Tom, his love-object doesn’t see it like that. She makes her escape and he pursues, the terror unfolding among the silent cars where every little shadow, oil stain and bumper sticker looks horribly sinister. Angela arms herself with an ax and survives all kinds of tribulations, including getting trapped and then flooded in an elevator, handcuffed to a drainpipe, choked and throttled and dragged around on cold concrete.
Murphy’s Law kicks in with a vengeance as everything goes haywire. The basement parking lot actually has four levels and Tom seems familiar with every dark nook and cranny; the deeper Angela runs underground, the more delighted he gets. Her cell phone stops working, and when she does succeed in contacting the police they take their sweet time arriving and turn out to be a pair of useless dipsh*ts. Angela’s boss, Mr. Harper (Simon Reynolds), has also been abducted by Tom, and he is subjected to torture like from out of the “Saw” series, right in front of her eyes.
Even though this bonehead boss has been sexually harassing her, she is appalled, and she begs forgiveness for Mr. Harper, but Tom only gives her a menacing grin and runs over the guy — maimed and mutilated — in his car at top speed with Angela in the passenger seat. Splat!
All in all, Christmas Eve is pretty eventful for Angela. My worry is that after all this, she’ll find the rest of the holiday season completely boring.