Co-written by Alexandre Aja, "P2" is the directorial debut of the "Haute Tension" director's protégé, Franck Khalfoun, who is clearly what Tommy Lee Wallace was to John Carpenter: an expression of the Master's will. "P2" is basically an Aja movie, and a good one. And probably the best Christmas horror film since the original "Black Christmas."
Like Aja's "Hills Have Eyes" remake, a well-off, sheltered American (Nichols) needs to become a feral killer to fend off attacks from a slimy, uneducated poor person (Bentley). Nichols plays a young executive type working late on Christmas Eve in a Park Avenue skyscraper. She's due to spend the holidays with her sister's family. When her BMW won't start she seeks help from the parking attendant, played by Wes Bentley, who seems like a fairly nice guy at first, although a little creepy when he asks her to have a Christmas dinner with him. The building becomes deserted, none of the exits are open, and when she heads back down to her car, located on level P2 in the basement, all the lights go out. Bentley knocks her out. When she wakes up, she's chained to a chair in his office, wearing a dinner dress he apparently purchased for her. Looks like she's going to have that Christmas dinner with him after all.
Nichols makes a great stand-in for what a young Jodie Foster probably would have been like in this role and Bentley is quite good as the unassuming nutjob with a crush. Naturally, the movie evolves into a war, male versus female, with Nichols required to get in touch with her animal killer side if she hopes to survive the Christmas holiday trapped in a parking garage with a madman.
It's pretty impressive what Khalfoun accomplishes with a cast of essentially two, and this film shares a lot in common with the superior "Hard Candy," another male-versus-female horror film with an even lower budget than this. I liked a lot of the symbolism in this film as well. Nichols' character is actually trapped at the beginning of the movie – by her high profile job. And it's a poor uneducated slob that turns her world upside down. When she cries out for help, only a homeless person in the street above can hear her. But when the homeless woman cries out, no one bothers to listen.
In short, there's more than meets the eye to this thriller, which qualifies as a horror film only because it has so many shocks and some ridiculous gore, especially when Bentley dispatches one of Nichols' sexual harassing coworkers. The suspense level is also quite high. Aja trained his protégé well in the art of making a tense nail-biter.
"P2" was part of a small wave of male-versus-female thriller films that included "Hard Candy" and Wes Craven's "Red Eye". It's a good subgenre and hopefully more like them will be cranked out by the industry.
Of the three films, this one had the best ending. It's hard to beat a good eye gouging.