Review of ATM


The weather in Southern California is nothing if not affable. Even in March, you can expect sunny days and pleasant temperatures. Such was the case a few weeks ago when I attended a screening for ATM, a new release from IFC Midnight. It was quite a shock to step in from the sunny Sunset Strip into the frigid, bloody confines of the Horror / Thriller directorial debut of David Brooks.

Horror has always been a hard sell for me. The situations always feel too contrived, and I often end up more annoyed with the characters than sympathetic to their plight. ATM just doesn't have enough going for it to rise above my expectations. It has it's strong points, but overall it's an okay but not great film. If you're a fan of the genre, it's probably worth a watch. Everyone else is probably safe giving it a pass.

Our unwitting victims are earnest dweeb David (Brian Geraghty, The Hurt Locker), his unrequited office infatuation Emily (Alice Eve, She's Out of My League), and his un-self-conscious arrogant cubicle buddy Corey (Josh Peck, The Wackness). At the company Christmas party, David barely manages to offer Emily a ride home (because he couldn't quite manage to ask her out), only to have Corey third wheel his way into the back seat. After a severe bout of Deus Ex Machima, the three of them are trapped in an enclosed ATM in a deserted parking lot, being stared down by a mysterious, psychotic killer from the outside.

What follows is an hour or so of footage that's not nearly as engrossing as it could be.

The characters respond believably enough, if dimwittingly, to their situation. Unfortunately, “believable” doesn't always extent to “interesting” or “noteworthy.” They spend most of their time traversing the Horror Movie Victim Characters Checklist. Oh look. They're confused about what's happening. Now they're scared. Now they're terrified. Now they're blaming themselves and each other. Now they're dead. Right on schedule.

If the film isn't going to concentrate on the victims, then the villain has to pick up the slack. What's his story? What is he trying to accomplish, what is he trying to say? But there's not much meat on these bones either. The killer here gives his victims the silent treatment, and there's really nothing story wise for the audience to chew on. The best villains are dark reflections of ourselves. It's when you understand and even sympathize with them that they're the most terrifying. Without any texture or characterization, the killer in ATM isn't much of a villain at all. He's just some evil dude in a parka.

That overall is the movie's basic problem. There's just not enough “there” there.

ATM isn't a bad movie. The components are all there and well executed. Despite the overall predictability of the character arcs, the plot does serve up some genuinely unexpected twists and tense moments. Some individual scenes play exceptionally well. You'll find an entertaining and exciting 90 minutes here, especially if you're a fan of the genre. I just can't recommend you plan your day around it.

ATM is available now through Video On Demand and will be see a limited theatrical release April 6th.

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