ATM (David Brooks, 2012)
ATM, the first feature from director David Brooks, is a run-of-the-mill thriller. Really, that’s it’s major problem, and the reason it seems to have attracted so much vitriol. Sure, people are complaining about the script’s plot holes, but come on, The Island made, what, eight hundred billion dollars or something? And it had plot holes large enough to swallow this entire script. And, yeah, the characters make some stupid moves, but again, this is a horror film. Horror films without characters who make stupid moves? They’re not horror films, they’re something else. (I’m not sure what, because in forty years of watching them, I can’t recall ever seeing one.) All the other complaints I’ve seen about the film are strengths, not weaknesses. But I’m getting ahead of myself (and would have to dive deep into spoiler territory anyway, so I’ll probably conveniently ignore them).
Plot: three co-workers, David (The Hurt Locker‘s Brian Geraghty), his best friend Corey (Josh Peck, the longtime voice of Eddie from the Ice Age animated franchise), and possible future love interest Emily (The Raven‘s Alice Eve), are headed home late from their company Christmas party. (Goof note: early in the film, Corey refers to the fact that it’s three days before Christmas. Every time you see the security camera footage from the ATM, the footage is dated December 17th. Is Christmas on a different day in Manitoba?) Corey is both hungry and broke, so he asks David, who’s driving, to stop at an ATM. Through a series of misadventures like those you’re used to seeing in both horror movies and stupid teen sex comedies, all three of them end up in the ATM vestibule. (Unfortunately, this is where the teen sex comedy similarity ends.) When they go to leave the vestibule, standing between them and their car is a masked man wearing an anorak (the anorak becomes important). They figure he’s just waiting in line to use the machine until a random guy walking his dog wanders into the parking lot, and is quickly, and brutally, dispatched. The movie then becomes a waiting game, with the three players inside trapped and trading recriminations, while the anonymous killer just stands there, watching, and occasionally disappears in order to make amusing thumping noises to scare the victims.
I’m willing to write off a lot in horror movies (for example, what most people are thinking is the Big Twist part of the Big Twist Ending is a simple misunderstanding that will be cleared up by all the principal parties five minutes after the camera stops rolling) without taking points off; that’s just part of being a fan of the genre. And like I said before, it comes with the territory that you’re dealing with stupid people making stupid decisions. The problems arise when the script fails in its continuity—for example, have one character being so close to cold-related death as to be delirious halfway through the film, and then, five minutes later and with no added heat source, having that character be the most lucid in the vestibule (for the rest of the film). Annoyances like this, when it comes to movies like this, are absolutely legitimate, and should be criticized. But it’s not an awful movie, even if it is yet another entry in an oversaturated genre. If you can dismiss the silly continuity errors (and get past the fact that while Brian Geraghty is a solid character actor, he may not be quite ready for leads yet), it’s good enough late-night Netflix viewing if nothing else looks appealing. **
Rated R for “violence and terror.” I’ll let you be the judge.