I think there’s some advice in the screenwriting handbook that says something to the degree of “write what you know”. Chris Sparling seems to have listened to that as fresh from scripting the taut claustrophobic thriller Buried which was of course predominantly set in a coffin, he’s back with a taut claustrophobic thriller set predominantly in a walk in ATM – though sadly it’s somewhat less successful.
We begin in the world of financiers where we find our lead character David (Brian Geraghty) being pushed to ask out lovely office lady Emily (Alice Eve) at the Christmas party later that evening. When the party arrives, he seizes his opportunity and finds himself with the chance to steal a ride home with the attractive blonde by offering her a lift. Their moment though seems ruined though by the insistence of brash colleague Corey (Josh Peck) coming for the journey to save himself some cash. Corey needs food, and soon turns the ride home into an endurance test by endlessly whining that he’s hungry. But wait… the takeaway the Corey wants to visit only takes cash so that’ll mean a visit to the ATM.
Plot challenge #1 – How to get all three characters into the walk in ATM despite only one of them needing money. Answer? Make Corey such a klutz that his card has a dodgy magnetic strip, which leads David to go in and draw money out for him and Emma follow out of curiosity as to why things are taking so long. Once inside though, they spot a mysterious hooded character standing in the parking lot. Is he intimidating them or just simply waiting to draw out some cash? The answer soon arrives when this shady fellow attacks a passer-by much to the horror of our venerable threesome. Its ok though folks – I’m sure one simple phone call can end this grave situation, but wait… surely not… everyone’s left their mobile phones in the car. Damn you horror films and those pesky things you make people forget.
Plot challenge #2 – If the car is just outside the ATM and they’re free to leave at any point and they’re still in possession of the car keys, then what’s the big deal? Just walk out! Slight issue here is they’ve somehow parked the car 100 yards from the ATM and Mr.Menacing is standing right between their motor and the cash facility. I promised myself I wouldn’t pick too much at contrived situations like this, but WHO in their right mind on an evening with the temperature below freezing would park in an empty car park such a distance from where they’re going.
ATM is guilty of a lot of things like this, and even the most forgiving horror film addict is likely to find a portion of these convenient plot points a little grating. It’s a shame though really as ATM has a lot to like about it. The three leads have good chemistry with Geraghty suiting the lead role and Josh Peck and Alice Eve ably supporting him. It’s well shot, and it does contain a few moments that hint at a good film trying to escape a stinker. As for the villain of the piece, the mysterious stranger, he’s pretty functional yet somewhat unconvincing. The fur lining to his hood presents him more as an anonymous generic male rather than a harbinger of impending doom.
Overall though, despite the odd flash of ingenuity and intelligence, ATM is just dumb. I’m not going to be predictable though and finish with Another Terrible Movie – that would be harsh, although given the opportunity I think Another Trite Movie would be more applicable.