How to ruin your own film: The P2 Edition

Ah, my first entry in the list of films that open with out-of-context scary stuff from later in the film, then tell the rest of the story in flashback. How I hate this convention. Why does anyone ever do this? Two things – one, do they not realize that this spoils any chance that the film has at building suspense? Whatever the image you put in the beginning, the audience is just going to spend the rest of the film waiting for that image to show up, which keeps them from getting involved in the story. And B: I know that most filmmakers possess a pointed contempt for their audiences, but do they really think so little of the people paying to see their movie that they imagine they'll leave if something scary doesn't happen within the first three minutes?

I've seen three of the eight movies Alexandre Aja has written, and all of them have this exact same problem. In High Tension, the film opens with a dark-haired woman being attacked by “something” on a forest road, then we cut to a blond woman looking crazy in the aftermath of some kind of trauma. We know this because she's sitting on a table in what looks like a doctor's office. So they've established that dark-haired woman will survive at least until that scene late in the film, while blond haired girl is kind of crazy. Thanks for spoiling that.

Then there's 'The Hills Have Eyes', a film about Mutant Cannibal Hillbillies that attempts to build tension for the eventual appearance of those MCHs by showing only the slightest glimpses of them for the first half-hour. Sadly, this attempt to make an effective film is undercut by the fact that the opening scene reveals not only that the film is about killer MCHs, but also clearly reveals the makeup design of the lead MCH.

Which bring us to P2, which opens with a cheery Christmas song playing over a long tracking shot through a peaceful parking garage, which ends with a static shot of a parked BMW. Then, “shockingly”, a woman inside the trunk uses a tire iron to break herself out.

Why is this so anti-climactic? Well, if someone had managed to walk in to the movie three minutes after it started, they'd have seen a film about a woman trying to leave work on Christmas Eve, and the increasingly ominous ways that her attempts to escape are thwarted by an unsettlingly solicitous security guard, played by Wes Bentley. That fictional person who got to the theatre a little late might possibly be fascinated by the way the main character's situation spirals over the course of the film, wondering what's going to happen next. The rest of the people in the theatre, on the other hand, will just sit there wondering how long it's going to take before Rachel Nichols will get dressed in a nightgown, beaten up, and stuffed in the trunk of a car, so she can then escape. Since there are no other characters in the film with more than a line or two of dialogue, it's abundantly clear from the first time he says more than ten words that Wes Bentley is the bad guy.

What makes the whole thing worse is that the trunk-locking happens when there's something like five minutes left in the film, so basically the audience has been waiting the entire length of the film for something to happen beyond what they already know, and by the point that it does, I can't imagine anyone caring.

Not to say that P2 is a terrible film, just one rendered irrelevant by by its opening minutes. Of course, if you'd still like to see the movie, it can be purchased here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

lol, dude looks like u were just waiting for the trunk scene to pop up again and lost out on all the fun. And need i mention Rachels cleavage..oh boy

nuff said..