DVD Review – ATM (2012)

ATM, 2012

Directed by David Brooks
Starring Brian Geraghty, Alice Eve and Josh Peck

SYNOPSIS:

On a late night visit to an ATM, three co-workers end up in a desperate fight for their lives when they become trapped by an unknown man.

Buried writer Chris Sparling attempts to capture lightening in a bottle for a second time with ATM, a movie that has an interesting premise, a great set-up and a terrifying villain but is let down by a weak structure, poor pacing and a disappointing conclusion.

Much like Buried, ATM is set within one location – an ATM vestibule in the middle of a carpark. After a rather lame Christmas party, David (Brian Geraghty) offers to take Emily (Alice Even) home in a last ditch attempt to date her before she leaves for her new job. They are unfortunately joined by David’s “wacky” friend Corey (Josh Peck) who tags along as he’s too cheap to spring for a cab. Even more unfortunate for our heroes is that when they reach the ATM vestibule, they are stalked and trapped by a faceless madman in a trench coat and hood. With the temperatures dropping below freezing, this luckless trio must work together in order to survive the night.

Like The Strangers, ATM works on the simple scare tactic of a non-motivated attack, which really adds to the movie’s atmosphere. The Man seemingly has no need to attack these three helpless innocents, creating a genuine sense of fear for them. Furthermore, the added element of the cold exacerbating their problem is very chilling (no pun intended) and the movie does a good job of selling you on the terror that has befallen them.

Where ATM works is not just in its atmosphere however, but also in its villain. Through a brilliantly simple design, The Man is an incredibly imposing presence and the fact that he has no visible facial features turns him into an almost supernatural faceless monster. Mike O’Brian plays this beautifully and the way he carries himself is very reminiscent of Kane Hodder when he was playing Jason Voorhees – slow methodical movements that could snap and pop at any moment if you look at him funny. In a disappointing move however, Director David Brooks chooses later on in the movie to shoot some close ups on him and revealing his eyes which does ruin a lot of his mysterious nature, a lot like Matt Reeves showing us the monster in Cloverfield.

Sadly though, the movie needed a stronger cast to really sell this high level of fear. It’s not that Geraghty and Peck are bad, they’re just pretty uninspired and boring. Peck does a decent enough job in the early portions of the movie as the annoying ‘best’ friend, but when he’s charged with doing bigger moments he falls flat. But the biggest failure is our leading lady. After a breath-takingly dull performance in Star Trek Into Darkness, Alice Eve manages to out do herself here with a performance that is both infuriating and laughable at the same time. Unlike Peck, she can’t even carry herself in the pre-terror scenes and with little to no emotion, wide-eyed bland expressions and zero conviction in her delivery, Eve really drags this picture down.

But the biggest problem with ATM is that there isn’t enough in the story to fill its brief 77 minute runtime. It’s as if Sparling ran out of ideas quickly and could only pad the script out with forced mistrust scenes, pointless exposition and an unconvincing love angle that really slow the film down to a painful pace. To its credit, ATM does have a couple of dark moments and there is a very shocking and unjust death, but these set pieces are few and far between. Worse still, the film contains Return of the King style multiple endings which scream ‘we didn’t have enough to fill a feature so we padded out the runtime with these scenes that were filmed well after production ended’. The first ending, while unsatisfying, would have been enough but the two additional ones are either contrived or show us what we already knew about the character as it was more or less spelled out during the opening credits.

On top of that, Sparling treats his ATM location the same way he did the coffin in Buried and the movie often asks its audience to suspend their disbelief to a huge degree to not question why our heroes didn’t escape in the multiple opportunities they were presented with. The vestibule is not as contained as the movie tries to convince us that it is, which really hurts the movie’s credibility.
There is a good movie within ATM, it just needed to be made as a short rather than a feature length movie. It’s hard task to stretch a confined location for any long period of time and ATM sadly fails to do so. Aside from a fantastic central villain, there really isn’t much to see with ATM that you’ve not seen before and the three leading characters don’t help matters.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★

Luke Owen is one of Flickering Myth’s co-editors and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.

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