Friday, October 26, 2012


31 Days of Horror
Do you ever hear about a movie, or see a trailer or something, and just know you will see that movie?  I'm not talking about movies that you're excited to see, I'm talking about ones that you know will be inescapable?  It doesn't matter how good or bad the movie looks, you know that you will eventually watch it.  I feel that way about the Resident Evil and Underworld franchises; I don't like either, but I'm pretty sure I've seen every single one of them, usually because someone else says, "Hey, do you want to watch the new ___?"  This is how I felt about ATM.  The trailer made it look bad.  But I knew I would be watching horror movies all October, and I knew it went straight to video-on-demand (always a good sign), so this was a date made by destiny.  The question is whether destiny likes me or not.

ATM begins with David (Brian Geraghty) and Corey (Josh Peck) being awful at their day trading job.  No worries, though; tonight is the office Christmas party, which means that the night is full of fancy cocktails and expensive whiskey!
Or...maybe it means "just like a frat party, but while wearing suits."  Red cups?  Really?  David recognizes the party is his last chance to hit on Emily (Alice Eve), because it is her last day at the company, so he makes the most of it, in a clumsy and mostly ineffectual fashion.  He does convince her to let him drive her home, since it is below zero outside and she can't seem to catch a cab.  And she lives pretty far away, and it's pretty late, so she'll probably feel obliged to invite him in and, you know, ease his throbbing man-passion.
A guy going out of his way to help her?  That's the most realistic part of ATM
There's just one hitch: Corey is a cheap bastard and a cock blocker, so he insists on David driving him home, too.  Even though he lives in the opposite direction.  And he wants to stop for food.  But he has no cash, so they'll have to stop at an ATM.
"I know, I know.  I'm a bastard.  I've got a reservation for the ninth circle of Hell."
Naturally, since David wants to get his friend home as quickly as possible, he stops at any one of the hundreds of drive-thru ATMs attached to banks the last freestanding ATM in America.  And I'm not talking about an ATM that is on a city street, or one that is in the lobby of a bank, or one that is inside a convenience store --- this one is a booth in the middle of an enormous parking lot.  It's not even close to the road, so how did David know it was there?  That's not important.  What is important is that, to punish Corey for being a complete dick, David parks the car a few hundred feet away from the ATM entrance.  So that whole "let's hurry" thing?  Not as important as it seemed a few moments ago.  Oh, but it turns out that Corey's ATM card isn't working, so David has to get out of the nice, warm car and loan his douchebag friend money so he can maybe get Emily home before she realizes he's incredibly boring.  So he does.  And then Emily joins them, because David turned the car off (Really?) and it got cold.  Once they get the cash, they are about to leave, when...
...they see someone else in the parking lot.  Holy.  Fucking.  Shit.  And he's just...standing there, like a psychopath!  Are they overreacting?  Yes and no.  Right when common sense was about to shame these morons into walking to their car like adults, the dude in the winter coat murders a guy who was taking his dog for a walk (through a parking lot?).  This winter coat guy clearly means business, and by "business," I of course mean "murder."  Thankfully, the ATM enclosure has heat, lighting, bulletproof glass, and a security door.  But can that stop someone who is capable of such horror?
Look into the face of appropriately clothed evil and despair!

There are only three real characters in ATM, so breaking down the acting here will be thankfully brief.  Brian Geraghty was timid and whiny when his character was supposed to be shy and likable.  I don't ordinarily dislike Geraghty, but he took a role that should have at least been sympathetic and instead played the part like a little bitch.  Alice Eve was more likable, but so is the killer.  Eve was decent before the trio stopped at the ATM, and once she was there, her character played the weak link in the group.  Her dialogue indicates that Eve did a decent job with the part, but her character was unrealistic and annoying.  This is the first movie I have seen Josh Peck in, but I will congratulate him for making it out of Nickelodeon-child-actor-hood and not being a ham.  He doesn't have nearly the weaselly charm that his character is supposed to have, but I thought he was a slight improvement over Geraghty's impression of a six-year-old girl with bladder problems.
"Why don't we have winter clothing, like that guy in the parking lot?"

While it is certainly not good, the acting is not the main problem with ATM.  Is it the direction, though, or the writing?  Let's look at the direction first.  This is David Brooks' first attempt at directing a feature film.  With a limited cast of characters, enclosed in a small space while someone tries to kill them, it would make sense for the director to have a firm hand on the tone of this film.  He does not.  There is no suspense in this movie.  There is no tension.  When a character tried to escape the ATM and wound up being clotheslined by some fishing wire in the parking lot, it should have been startling, or it should have elicited a gasp.  I laughed until I couldn't stop coughing, and then I rewound and played it again to make sure I didn't miss anything. 
...and this should look like terror instead of Alice Eve saying "hello" with a Kennedy accent
I blame Brooks for not seeing some of the problems in this script and trying to overcome them.  Three people are willingly staying inside an ATM vestibule because a killer is outside, and yet they constantly lose track of where the killer is?  How is that not a priority?  Wouldn't someone be assigned to lookout duty?  That is a very visual problem with this movie, which makes it a problem for the director.  As for the technical bits, Brooks was uninspired.  Aside from occasionally cutting to the ATM security feed, his style was boring and commonplace.  He did make an odd editing choice during the opening credits to intersperse shots of the crime scene at the end of the film with the introductory scenes at the very beginning of the movie. It basically served the same purpose as having the survivor of a horror movie recount the events in a flashback, but without singling out any particular character as a survivor.  It's not a terrible way to hint at the horror to come, but not give away the plot; of course, that horror movie trope is cheap and completely unnecessary to begin with, but at least he did a halfway decent job with it.  One thing that you will notice about ATM is how boring it is to watch. 
The action scenes suck, too.  Just sitting through a fire?  BO-ring.
That is only partly due to the subject matter.  The rest if dull cinematography.  How many times can you show the same camera shot?  I understand that the story takes place in an enclosed space with a small cast, but you have to mix things up to keep the viewer interested!  Buried takes place exclusively inside a coffin and used more interesting camera angles than ATM.
This shot is 80% of ATM's storyboards

As sub-par as the directing is, it is the writing that sinks ATMChris Sparling (who wrote Buried) received the writing credit for this movie, although I don't see anything to indicate whether he turned in a traditional script or if he handed in a stack of papers covered in crayon scribbles and boogers.  This is easily the worst produced script I have seen in a good long while.  Sucker Punch was better written than this movie, that's how dumb this script is.  How is this script idiotic?  Let's run down the list:
  • Three young professionals live in what appears to be the Wisconsin/Illinois area (judging by the killer's maps) in Winter, and yet none of them have a real Winter coat?  Or gloves?  And only the girl has a hat, and it's one of those fluffy ones that are more for looks than warmth?  That's not how it works in the American Midwest.  Nobody looks sexy outdoors in December in Chicago.  Everyone bundles the hell up.  Everyone.  Even those assholes who wear shorts all year long will wear a puffy down jacket when it gets below zero.
  • Every other character in the movie is wearing the exact same Winter jacket with a fur trim on the hood.  I live in Illinois, and I don't know a single man with fur trim on his jacket.  I also rarely see people with their hoods up, unless it's sleeting.  Hats, yes.  Hoods, not so much.  A string of men, all indistinguishable from each other because they all own the same damn coat and have their hoods up?  That's about as likely as three people failing to have Winter jackets at the same time.
  • All three twentysomethings left their phones in the car (or let their battery die).  All three?  I am just outside the smartphone generation, and I rarely leave my phone in another room, let alone get out of the car without it.  You're telling me that these three all did it at the same time?
  • Emily left her purse in the car (which was not her car, and was out in the open) when she got out to go to the ATM.  I'm no expert on women, but I give that a zero percent chance of happening.
  • The killer shows up with no weapons.  What the hell?  His original plan was to look menacing, until someone gave him the means to find a weapon?  Hell, he couldn't have done half of the things he did to the ATM vestibule without the tools he conveniently found in the trunk of David's car.
  • Who leaves a fire hose out overnight, let alone around Christmas?
  • David has a fully-stocked toolbox in his trunk.  He trades securities or something like that.  Why would he keep a few hundred dollars of non-tire-changing tools in his trunk?
There are several more examples, but those are the most mind-numbingly stupid instances of the writing in this movie.  In the other cases, you can blame horror movie logic for their choices, but these are  inexcusable.
"Now I have machine gun tire iron.  Ho ho ho."
It is also worth pointing out that the movie portrays the killer as a mastermind that planned all this.  Before the opening credits, we saw him writing on some schematics, planning his attack.  But here's the thing: while the killer was "clever" enough to SPOILER ALERT: not get caught on camera, his foolproof plan apparently depended on having the stupidest three people alive do exactly the right things to allow this plan to work.  Three people that decide not to overpower one person, even when they have proof that they could?  Check.  Three people with cell phones who all happen to leave their cell phones in the car?  Double check.  Three people who are made more desperate by the fact that they don't know what to wear when it is ridiculously cold out?  Triple check.  A group who parks their car just far enough away to have no chance of reaching it without the villain reaching them?  Quadruple check.
Finally!  Somebody parks their damn car close to the ATM machine.  He's helping!
If you change any of those conditions, all of which are extremely unlikely, this dastardly plan falls apart.  And if you think about any of those conditions, the movie falls apart.  But let's not be completely negative.  When David and Corey were having bro time, talking like normal guys, the dialogue was awkward and not terribly clever.  So there's a silver lining.

As bad as ATM is, I couldn't help laughing at its ineptness.  It takes itself so seriously that the obvious mistakes and plot holes feel utterly ridiculous.  I can't imagine a modern movie with recognizable actors that is stupider than ATM.  More pretentious?  Sure.  More frustrating?  Easily.  Simply worse?  Yes.  But dumber?  The only thing that could be dumber than ATM would be a sequel.  By the way, the ending clearly sets up a sequel.  Since this movie made about forty-two cents against a budget of three million dollars, it probably won't happen, but how sweet would it have been for ATM 2: The ATMining to have had the same villain, with the same MO, against someone who wasn't fatally moronic?
Even better: same coat, but in Florida
The fact that ATM got made is an insult to any unpublished screenplays out there.

That doesn't mean it's not fun to watch, though.  This movie has just enough stupidity to keep me interested in pointing out what the next mistake will be.  It was close, though.  There is a fine line between Lefty Gold and utter trash sometimes, I will admit.  ATM straddles that line for much of the film.  Thankfully, the fate of each character and the reveal of the killer as a "mastermind" was enough to make me belly laugh.  I wouldn't advise watching this sober and/or alone, but in the right state of mind, it's pretty solid Lefty Gold.


  1. Whoa, whoa, whoa, easy with the Sucker Punch comment. Think about the lengths that script went to be absolutely retarded. Now, apologize to Sucker Punch.

    Do you think the look of the killer and many of the shots are supposed to be some crappy homage to the movie poster of The Thing?

    1. I'm sorry, Sucker Punch, but you were out-stupided. Don't get mad --- you're still incredibly shitty, and this terrible movie can't even pretend to compete with you on that level.

      Oh, man, if The Thing reference was true, I would hate this movie so much more..,

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