Noteworthy Heroines of Horror is a recurring segment on Wicked Horror where we shine the spotlight on a female character from the annals of horror history that has made a significant contribution to the genre. The characters we select may not be the obvious final girls that regularly grace top ten lists, but their contributions to the genre are meaningful and worthy of note.
Sometimes a good horror film is all about location, location, location. A lonely parking garage late at night can be terrifying for anyone with a vivid imagination, and in 2007, producer Alexandre Aja and his Hills Have Eyes collaborator Franck Khalfoun explored this idea with the film P2. In it, a lonely parking attendant terrorizes a woman he’s had his eye on when he locks her in the underground garage of her office building. Wes Bentley takes on the role of charming psychopath Tom, while Rachel Nichols gets put through the wringer as Angela and proves herself a Noteworthy Heroine of Horror.Angela is a young woman trying to climb the corporate ladder on New York’s Park Avenue. In the film’s opening scene, she’s burning the midnight oil in her office even though it’s Christmas Eve. From this, the viewer can infer that she’s hard-working, dedicated, independent–and most likely too focused on work. She’s trying to get to her sister’s house for the holidays, and from the phone calls she is receiving from her family, it’s obvious that she has disappointed them in the past by putting her job ahead of them. Her demeanor is thoughtful and kind to her co-workers, though not emotional. However, she does seem wound just a bit too tight.
In their first scene together as captor and captive, Angela does not immediately freak out and start begging Tom for her life. She is quiet and remains as calm as possible, smartly assessing her situation and trying everything in her power to stage an escape. First she tries the tough approach and demands that Tom unchain her from the table. He just ignores this, so she switches to the polite approach, and then tries lying and manipulation.
Tom is essentially in control of the situation. He knows the location better than she does and literally holds the keys to her freedom. However, Angela does a wonderful job of adapting to her predicament and manages to become just as sneaky as he. She evades Tom several times when she manages to escape captivity and subsequently tries to find an escape route through one of the different levels of the parking garage–which becomes a bit easier because she has wisely stolen the keycards from his office. She takes out the security cameras so he doesn’t see her coming, and perhaps most impressively, manages to escape from being locked in the trunk of a car. Many of us probably wouldn’t know how to do half of the things she manages to accomplish while attempting to make her escape.
Despite all his grandstanding about not wanting to hurt Angela and only seeking to “help” her, Tom’s ultimate motive for what he does is purely selfish. He claims to be angry at her co-worker Jim because Tom saw him aggressively make a move on her in the elevator. Jim is even killed for this perceived crime. But Tom’s treatment of Angela is perhaps even more sexually demeaning. When he kidnaps her, Angela is in her corporate attire, with her hair done up in a tight bun. After she wakes up from being drugged, Tom has redressed her into a short, cleavage-revealing white dress, red lipstick, and put her hair down. Angela later sees a video that Tom took which shows him touching her body while she was passed out. But learning what he has done while she was unconscious only fuels her fire to beat him.
Angela proves many times that she has plenty of fight in her to be a successful horror heroine. Most of the film is a cat-and-mouse chase between the two characters and Angela proves herself a worthy opponent to the arrogant Tom. This is a woman who spends almost an entire hour of the film in handcuffs. She is almost drowned, locked in a trunk, bitten by a dog, and loses an entire fingernail, Oh, she is also drugged, tasered, and narrowly survives a car wreck. The final straw for Angela seems to be when Tom sends his Rottweiler, Rocky, after her and she is forced to brutally stab the dog to death or be eaten alive. She and Tom engage in a game of chicken, and she comes out the winner. After this, she stabs him in the eye, strangles him, and then handcuffs him to the car door. She seems willing to leave it at that–until Tom makes the fatal mistake of calling her the c-word.
Angela doesn’t seem like someone all that admirable when the audience first meets her in P2. But her inner strength and determination comes out in a most inspiring way. She never gives in and she never gives up, even when things seem impossible for her. We are proud to, in turn, bestow upon her the Noteworthy Heroine of Horror title.