ATM (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
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ATM (2012)

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It seems like it's been far too long since the conceit of the stronghold horror film has been drug out for our pleasure.  The type I'm referring to is where an evil entity is waiting just outside a supposedly safe location just waiting for the opportunity to cleave into the scared humans inside.  If it's treated with intelligence you can have a great mix of small character moments along with the scares that keep you watching.

Sadly, these films are out of vogue for the moment.  Instead they've been replaced with found footage films where the evil is inside and we have to watch very patiently to get scattering glimpses of this.  ATM's issue lies in its combination of the two forms.  There's absurd, but brutal, fun to be had when the victims try to venture outside of the terminal but there are too many moments inside while the camera just watches, and sometimes switches over to another black and white security camera whose purpose will become all too clear in the end.The film opens with a mysterious stranger hunkered over some diagrams of an ATM terminal.  "Silent Night" hums along in the background, then once a suitable amount of menace has been established through all that sitting, he leaves to kick the plot off.  But before we know the extent of his plan we experience yet another day at work for David (Brian Geraghty), Emily (Alice Eve), and Corey (Josh Peck).  Chris Sparling's screenplay doesn't give them the most original roles (hero, love interest, and jerk friend, respectively) but has the good sense to speed through their introduction and get them to the ATM so the horror can start.

Unfortunately, for all the technical competence to come, this is where the biggest leap of faith is required.  The hooded figure from the beginning starts tormenting them from the outside of the terminal, which is locked and can only be accessed by using a card to get in.  The shots establishing the man put him at a large distance away from the trio and, at no point, do they get the idea to just all exit the terminal at once and run in three separate directions.  True, the man strikes an intimidating presence and announces his intentions by knocking out and then smashing a poor passer-bys head into the parking lot, but you'd think one of them would have generated the self-preservational thought of "run stupids".

From this point on ATM is a competently made film that didn't exactly thrill me but didn't fill me with the kind of boredom I feel watching other horror films.  The cast does a good job at adhering to their predescribed roles without pushing too much for affect.  They're all aware of their function as performers in an already ridiculous premise and any winking would have caused the whole film to tumble.  Then there's director David Brooks, makes the terminal seem like a harsh beacon in the middle of nowhere and finds a number of creative, if at times nearly inexplicable, traps that the hooded man tries to use to get the trio to do whatever it is he's trying to get them to do.Figuring out the gist of a horror film is fun, but in ATM it's muddled.  Overall it feels like Brooks and company were making a film about how the upper crust, despite their best intentions, can't help but damage people along the way regardless of circumstances.  It makes sense that the trio works at an investment firm and are trapped inside of the very symbol of what they do day in, day out.  It especially becomes evident with some parallels between what David accidentally does to someone's finances earlier in the day, and some traumatic events that he and the others take part in later on.

The film deliberately asks us to make these comparisons from the opening scenes sequencing the hooded man's preparation and their work schedules.  Trouble is the effort, while noticed and appreciated, is still not very effective because the more serious aspects of the film are so at odds with the messaging and nearly cartoonish conclusion that any effect is muted.

Still, it's a reasonably good starting effort from a director who may not have quite found his voice, but will still make a few Saturday movie nights across this land a little better.

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ATM (2012)

Directed by David Brooks.
Screenplay written by Chris Sparling.
Starring Brian Geraghty, Alice Eve, and Josh Peck.

Posted by Andrew

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