Directed By: David Brooks
Starring: Brian Geraghty, Josh Peck, Alice Eve
Slasher flicks can get away with murder, no pun intended. They can reuse kills, tiptoe around logicality, have over-the-top performances and maybe even have a killer reveal his entire plan during the grand finale, and you accept it because that’s just what happens in these types of films. But still, what makes this use and reuse technique work time and time again, is a little originality mixed with some solid reasoning. The novelty is obviously there, but ATM’s got zero purpose and therefore, zero satisfaction.
David’s (Brian Geraghty) had a rough day at work, but his co-worker and good buddy Corey (Josh Peck) insists he come to the office Christmas party for just one drink – and to hit on his longtime crush, Emily (Alice Eve). David uses the fact that Emily’s about to leave their company for a new job as motivation, finally approaches her and winds up driving her home. However, their magical evening together is somewhat ruined when Corey hops in the car and insists they go get some food.
On the way, they make a pit stop at an ATM booth in the middle of a vacant parking lot. Corey heads inside to get some cash, but insists his card isn’t working and calls David for help. After a few minutes alone in the car, Emily decides to join them and all three wind up in the booth. Just as they’re all about to head back to the car, they spot a man standing outside the door, not just a man coming to use the ATM, but one who looks like he doesn’t want them to leave.
As a follow up to Buried, writer Chris Sparling ups the trapped scenario by going with three victims rather than one, however, it turns out, Sparling is much better at writing scenes for a solo star. The core concept of ATM’s got a lot of promise. Three young professionals trapped in an ATM by a ruthless slasher; you’d think having your main characters stuck in an ATM would limit the range of possibilities, but really, it just forces you to get more creative and, in turn, deliver more shocking results. And Sparling goes there, too. He’s got the right ideas, but director David Brooks just doesn’t know how to execute them.
ATM is Brooks’ first feature and it shows. He’s got a lot of great ideas for framing, but not enough to sustain a whole feature. We’ll get this one really visually stimulating shot, but then it’ll be followed by manic and unsuccessful attempts to make a one-on-one conversation more compelling. Brooks falters in the editing room as well. So much of the horror in a horror film comes out via editing, but Brooks just isn’t capable of piecing together his footage effectively. He stitches together quite a few shots that just don’t match and his scenes lack visual progressions.
On the acting front, Eve, Peck and Geraghty certainly try and do successfully bring parts of ATM to life, but there’s just so much they can do with the material. Eve’s got the toughest job as so much of Emily’s involvement merely consists of her standing around freezing, looking out the window and watching Corey and David fight. On the other hand, Peck’s got the most to work with and that winds up being his downfall. Corey’s a colorful character, but the whole obnoxious best buddy shtick is taken a bit too far, making him rather irritating. And as for David, he’s just so vanilla. Sure he’s super nice and charming, but there’s really just nothing special or exciting about him.
Then we’ve got our bad guy; here’s where Sparling’s work suffers immensely. If you’re going to have a guy go through all that trouble to torment some people, he better have a good reason to do it. Sparling does give a little time to explaining the villain’s plan of action, but never to why he’s doing it, which makes the ending and the film as a whole terribly unsatisfying.
Overall, ATM’s got a few ups, but far too many downs to take it seriously. The characters are unoriginal, the killer is underdeveloped and the whole scenario is just ridden with logic issues. Sure, many campy slasher flicks could sustain some of those pitfalls, but in ATM’s case, it’s the core of the story that collapses, leaving the rest of the material absolutely helpless.