Wednesday, August 11

Some quick thoughts on P2 (2007) and its fabled "last ever" HD DVD release

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Angela (Rachel Nichols), a high rise office worker finishing up for the evening to meet with family on Christmas Eve, finds that her car has died in the building's underground parking garage. The lone night security guard, Thomas (Wes Bentley), tries to help but the engine just won't turn over. A cab is called, yet the front doors are oddly locked, and Angela is forced to go back down into the garage to see if the only person left in the complex has keys. Suddenly, the power fails and after a struggle the woman awakens in Thomas's office on level P2...handcuffed to a chair. The young guard has been watching Angela from afar through the monochromatic glow of his camera array and won't let her leave peacefully...

Franck Khalfoun's P2 (Parking Level 2) is a great example of a stylish thriller that's intelligent enough to pull no punches with learned viewers who'd otherwise roll their eyes at its very formulaic package. This hard edge is imparted by the presence of the Coens of grisly horror Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur; who serve as writers (story and screenplay), producers, and presumably looming supervisors for first time director Khalfoun. One might recognize Khalfoun has Jimmy, the gas station clerk, who unfortunately receives an axe to the chest while retrieving a bottle of JB for Philippe Nahon in Aja/Levasseur's Haute tension (2003). Aja's go-to cinematographer (pre-Piranha 3D) Maxime Alexandre and Hill Have Eyes composer tomandandy tag along with what amounts to an exercise in superfluousness.

So P2 ends up being like Steven Spielber...I mean Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist. It's nigh impossible to discern where Khalfoun's talents land in this potent personality stew. Not a big deal really, and once the talk of the first reel subsides, you'll stay glued if for no other reason than to see how Angela gets out of the implausibly inescapable levels of concrete and oil stains. Khalfoun (or Aja or Levasseur) spices up some of this exposition with one of Angela's male co-workers duct taped to a chair as Thomas commands his obsession to exact revenge for the man's drunken indiscretion upon her. Of course, she refuses, and soon afterward the fate of the beaten man crushes the outer edge of the film's R rating.

Leads Nichols and Bentley are serviceable in a contrived "horrorish/thrillerish" way. Angela has more wits than usual for this fare despite her non-machine washable tight white dress. I guess one could surmise, given the total lack of sex or exposed naughty bits, the breast hugging attire has chosen as compensation and a way to express the strong character's delicate femininity. Or something. Bentley never quite comes off as a truly terrifying foe for anyone as his loon lashes out over his menial life position hardship and cries over Angela's vicious refusal to share in his love for her. Haute tension's supremely archetypal Le tueur would fold this prick into a pretzel and break out the cut-off machine. It's hard to read too much into P2. It's mild enough that it's surprising a bigger impact wasn't made at the box office, but still brutally diverting for seasoned horror aficionados to enjoy as nothing new done well. Watch it with someone who doesn't care for horror--they'll be pleasantly surprised.

Summit Entertainment (the studio behind the Twilight "saga") found themselves in a pickle with P2's home video debut. The DVD arrived without a hitch, but just as Toshiba's HD DVD conceded to Blu-ray in late March '08, the studio found themselves with a high def release with a rapidly dying market. While studios quickly canceled future titles on the format, Summit had this release already factory pressed. So P2 ended up being the last "official" title to be released on HD DVD. This disc wasn't even formally released. Copies just ended up floating around on auction sites and landing in discount bins months after the fact. At one point, this HD DVD was extremely rare, but now can be found relatively easily and cheaply online. If you still have a player or the 360 add-on drive, P2 is worth picking up. The DVD has a strong transfer, but this film deserves high definition. Despite no relation to Universal Studios, Summit opted to use a similar front silver "swoosh" and the "look and sound of perfect" tagline on this HD DVD. Also note the Region 1 in the back specs; HD DVD didn't have region locks like Blu-ray.

7 comments:

Jayson said...

800th post!

Donna said...

Will HD DVD play on my PS3?

Buscemi said...

I was one of the few to see this in a theatre and I remember liking it. I eventually got the DVD earlier this year for $1.66 at Entertainmart.

As for the swoosh design, Universal and Summit share the same headquarters (Universal City, California) so they may share a DVD department.

Drunketh said...

I've seen H2 twice and I can dig it man. I really like how Wes Bently's character is portrayed here... his emotional face gestures are great, especially when he gets that somewhat shocked look in his eyes. Quite the stuff. And Scarlett's juggs are simply to kill for. Oh, and also, totally sweet dog death!

KFelon said...

I've got this HD-DVD and while it was one of the last official HD-DVDs there were a couple indie releases such as Deadlands 2 and a new one this year called Smokers.

Smokers website http://www.mcbtv.net

The uber rare Taking Lives HD-DVD was another title that the market soon had flooded with copies after the demise of the HD-DVD.

Jayson said...

@ Donna, nope, only HD DVD players, PC HD DVD drives, and the Xbox 360 add-on drive.

KFelon, I'm fairly certain Deadlands was a HD DVD-R because of the extreme difficulty in actually find a place that presses HD DVDs, Unsure about Smokers.

Also Taking Lives was in the wings when HD DVD was still healthy, a few copies sneaked out (I guess Warner was holding it to announce a later date), but then the format died.

Drunketh said...

No idea why I said H2 up there instead of P2... but most surely it was due to your contant Rob Zombie rants. Heh.

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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