Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas 2015: December 18

P2 (2007)

“P2” came and went in 2007 without much notice. It did abysmally at the box office, holding the record for the fourth worst opening weekend for a wide release until recently. I can’t recall seeing a single trailer, commercial, or poster for the movie, which might explain why it did so poorly. Even horror fans didn’t give it much attention. It was only after the movie came and went from theaters that I realized Alexandre Aja was a co-writer. “P2” was also the directorial debut of Franck Khalfoun, who would go on to make the very impressive remake of “Maniac.” When I read the film was set around Christmas that gave me extra incentive to finally check out “P2.”

Angela is working late at the office on Christmas Eve. After she wraps up there, she plans on going over to her sister's for a family holiday dinner. Upon leaving, her car fails to start. She calls a cab but finds herself locked inside the building. Angela goes down into the parking garage, where she meets Thomas, a security guard. He drugs her and she awakens wearing a white dress and chained to a table. Angela discovers that Thomas is obsessed, psychotic, and wants to spend Christmas with her.

“P2” is a fun-enough cross breed of a stalker thriller with some slasher trappings that trades freely in “women in peril” imagery. Rachel Nichols spends nearly the entire film in a very low cut dress. She’s a beautiful, buxom woman and the film delights in submerging her in water or splattering her with blood. The first half of “P2” is devoted to Angela’s various attempts to escape Thomas. She stabs him with a fork, yanks at the chain, and winds up in a flooded elevator. She attempts to call the cops on a cellphone but, naturally, has no bars. The film does not pile on the gore with the exception of one sequence. Thomas has captured Angela’s grabby co-worker, taping him to a chair in the parking garage. After smacking him around with his Maglight, he then crushes the man between a car and the wall. Eventually the man bursts, his blood splattering against the car’s windshield. It’s the kind of creative butchery Khalfoun would truly perfect with “Maniac.”

Though there are a few other characters in the film, “P2” is mostly a two-person show. Rachel Nichols’ career never truly took off which is a shame, as I’ve always liked her. She’s not only gorgeous in “P2” but also proves to be a resilient scream queen. An especially impressive scene has her struggling with a dog, showing Nichols isn’t afraid to get down and dirty. Her will to survive truly rubs off on the audience. As much as I like Nichols, Wes Bently steals the show. Bently has admitted he was high as fuck while filming “P2.” This is probably why his performance is so unhinged. He greets Angela in a Santa suit, calmly preparing a Christmas dinner for her. One mostly unrelated scene has him gyrating and lip-synching to Elvis. He sweats, heaves, and stares with a magnificent set of crazy eyes. The more desperate Thomas’ situation becomes, the further off-the-rocker Bently goes. It’s a performance of truly Nic Cage-ian proportions and part of what makes the film entertaining.

In the second half of “P2,” Angela has had enough of Thomas’ bullshit and goes on the offensive. This is nicely illustrated in a scene where she starts smashing security cameras with a fire axe. This duel of wills is intermittently intense. The girl barely avoiding detection from the killer, inside the garage’s car dealership, stands out to me. An especially tense moment involves a car chase through the tight corners of the garage, the vehicles careening around tight corners. That moment concludes with a game of chicken, two cars racing towards each other. Disappointingly, “P2” peaks early, during this moment. Despite only running a little longer then ninety minutes, the film still feels too long. It’s as if the writers were really stretching to think up multiple situations set inside a parking garage. “P2” starts to spin its wheel before it’s over.

Any time a horror film takes place inside such a limited locale, critics are quick to point out how easily the scenario could’ve been resolved. I’m sure Angela had many opportunities to escape the garage. “P2” also, perhaps, could’ve utilized its seasonal setting a little better. There’s some Christmas lights, a few songs, and snow at the end. In the end, the film qualifies as a Christmas movie mostly on a technicality. Still, a handful of intense or gory moments and two entertaining performances result in a decent horror flick. [7/10]

Futurama: A Tale of Two Santas

“Futurama’s” first Christmas episode, “Xmas Story,” is a classic and one of the episodes responsible for me loving the show. There was no way the show was going to introduce a concept like a murderous robotic Santa and not return to it. He returns every Christmas, after all! In “A Tale of Two Santas,” the Planet Express delivery team gets the crappy job of delivering children’s letters to Santa Claus. The homicidal Robo-Claus lives on Neptune, where he has enslaved the local aliens. The Planet Express team, while escaping the planet, wind up freezing the robotic Santa in the ice. With Christmas Eve only hours away, Bender assumes the role of Santa Claus, delivering gifts to Earth’s children. Bender being who he is though, he soon gets in trouble.

While “Xmas Story” was more then happy to introduce the concept of a killer Santa-bot, it actually featured very little yuletide slaughter. “A Tale of Two Santas,” meanwhile, follows up on the premise, leading to some dark chuckles. Consider the letters children write Santa. One little girl writes that when Santa shot her with a bicycle cannon, he broke her arm. A young boy writes about how Santa lodges a chestnut in her grandfather’s throat and now his corpse is starting to stink. On Neptune, Santa’s annual rampage has forced the local toy factory closed. Soon, a crack house will replace it. After Robo-Claus is defeated, the Planet Express crew motivates the Neptunians with a lively song. As the elves work harder and faster to meet the deadline, the lyrics become far meaner. The episode concludes with Bender and the real Santa going on a rampage, leaving the city in flames. If “Futurama” wasn’t so consistently funny, this episode might actually be too dark.

There are some other seasonal gags that work. While out on his Christmas trip, Bender encounters Kwanzaa Bot. His whole purpose is to distribute a book that instructs children on what Kwanzaa is. Zoidburg bathes in eggnog and, later, dresses as Jesus. Ultimately, the episode meanders a little off topic. While distributing gifts, Bender is shot, beaten, and mangled by a fearful populace. He winds up on trial for the crimes of the real Santa. Here, the episode segues into a funny if odd sequence featuring a Southern lawyer who is also a chicken. Bender is convicted, passes a message to the Robot Devil, and put up for execution via giant magnet. All of this stuff is funny, providing twisted and absurd laughs. However, I ultimately feel “A Tale of Two Santas” wanders too far from its Christmas concept.

Despite its twisted concept, “Xmas Story” managed to have some heart as well. “A Tale of Two Santas” attempts this combination of genuine sweetness and dark comedy. The episode ends with Fry and his friends huddling close together in their home, hiding from the carnage outside. Fry comments that this is what Christmas is supposed to do, bring people closer together. Ha ha. While not as good as the first season’s Christmas episode, “A Tale of Two Santas” is still consistently funny. [7/10]

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