The Films of Franck Khalfoun
P2 (November 9/07)
P2 is an entertaining little horror flick that undoubtedly benefits from the inclusion of a few appreciatively nasty kill sequences, as the movie is ultimately unable to live up to the promise of its admittedly dynamite premise. Starring Rachel Nichols and Wes Bentley, the story follows businesswoman Angela Bridges (Nichols) as she finds herself pursued by an insane security guard (Bentley) within the confines of an underground parking garage. There's no denying that P2 gets off to a fairly strong start; director Franck Khalfoun does a nice job of setting things up and building tension, while Nichols effectively avoids the temptation to transform her character into a typically brainless horror-movie victim. It's not until Bentley's Thomas shows up that the movie temporarily goes off the rails, as the actor delivers as broad and over-the-top a performance as one could possibly imagine - which consequently (and immediately) drains the proceedings of any suspense or terror. That being said, there's little doubt that the movie improves substantially once the two characters are separated and a cat-and-mouse game ensues. The finale - which bears a slight similarity to the conclusion of Eli Roth's recent Hostel sequel - leaves the proceedings on a surprisingly dark note, and while the movie never quite comes off as the electrifying thriller its ads have been promising, P2 is certainly a welcome respite from the awards-season fodder currently flooding cinemas.
Wrong Turn at Tahoe
Maniac (October 20/13)
Shot almost entirely from the perspective of its central character, Maniac follows Elijah Wood's Frank as he attempts to recover from his mother's sudden death by stalking and murdering a series of young women - with the film detailing Frank's efforts at quieting his inner turmoil and, eventually, cultivating a real relationship with a kind-hearted photographer (Nora Arnezeder's Anna). It's clear almost immediately that Maniac stands as an obvious improvement over its predecessor, 1980's Maniac, as the movie, despite its problems, at least remains watchable from start to finish - with Franck Khalfoun's slick directorial choices and Wood's strong performance perpetuating the film's passable vibe. It doesn't hurt, either, that Khalfoun, working from a script by Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur, has peppered the narrative with striking, gore-infused kill sequences, with Frank's pursuit of a dancer through an empty subway station (and, eventually, a grimy city street) standing as an obvious highlight within the proceedings. There's little doubt, however, that Maniac slowly-but-surely wears out its welcome, as the film's repetitive structure - Frank pursues and murders a victim, returns home to his creepy lair, pursues and murders another victim, etc - inevitably grows rather tiresome and, ultimately, renders the picture's positive elements moot. Wood's intense performance, what little of it we see, certainly goes a long way towards keeping things interesting and the movie is always compelling on a purely visual level, yet the bottom line is that Maniac, like its forebear, simply doesn't possess enough material to warrant the full-length feature treatment.
Amityville: The Awakening (June 15/18)
A depressingly tedious ghost story, Amityville: The Awakening follows Jennifer Jason Leigh's Joan as she moves her three children (Bella Thorne's Belle, Cameron Monaghan's James, and Mckenna Grace's Juliet) to the infamous DeFeo home in Long Island, New York - with the movie detailing the spookiness that inevitably ensues once the house begins to make its supernatural presence known. Director Franck Khalfoun has admittedly peppered Amityville: The Awakening with a number of promising developments, including the revelation that the movie is transpiring outside the long, drawn-out series that's inspired it (eg Belle and her friends sit down to watch the 1979 original film). Khalfoun's decision to employ a decidedly deliberate pace triggers a midsection that grows less and less interesting as it progresses, however, and it's clear, too, that the emphasis on often eye-rollingly hackneyed elements ultimately does transform the picture into a somewhat interminable ordeal. The movie's less-than-engrossing vibe is compounded by a series of palpably underwhelming performances, with Leigh, surprisingly enough, delivering one-note, phoned-in work that's echoed by Thorne's flat turn as the one-dimensional protagonist. By the time the overcranked final stretch rolls around, Amityville: The Awakening has certainly confirmed its place as just another ineffective and paint-by-numbers contemporary, teen-oriented horror flick.