Friday, October 19, 2012

REVIEW: ATM (2012)

Why do horror movies always title themselves after mundane things? Don’t they just know they’re setting themselves up for mockery? However, it’s always nice to see a movie that actually rises above the usual crap these direct to DVD flicks give us, like ATM. Yes. A movie about a bunch of people stuck in an ATM box is good. It’s not about an ATM that kills people, though, which would have elevated the film into god-tier level if that had come to pass…

Director: David Brooks
Starring: Brian Geraghty, Alice Eve, Josh Peck

This is a tight, tense thriller of the school of modern movies like Devil or The Strangers where you get a trapped person trying to escape from an enigmatic killer. There are very few surprises here as every notch is hit perfectly – you got the isolated area in the middle of the night where of course they can’t just make a run for it, you got the silent killer who is seemingly omnipresent and you got the cops and other random people who show up to get killed. It’s all incredibly predictable, but surprisingly I found myself drawn in and very entertained.

This is a cool movie. The characters are kind of goofy at the start, and at first the acting seems awkward, but their interactions are fairly realistic and the writing isn’t too bad at all. While nobody will ever watch a horror movie for the brilliantly awkward scenes of a guy asking a girl out, at least this one doesn’t pull any punches for realism when it comes to that. The realism helps when we actually get inside the ATM box and the killer starts working his magic, too, because the killer’s plot is so goofy and unrealistic that you need some realism or else the movie will just fail right off the bat.

The atmosphere is nice and seedy, the whole thing set in some shitty parking lot on a really cold winter’s night. The ATM box is confined, but not so much that the characters can’t move around, so you get an oddly cool effect where it’s like one story inside the box and a larger one outside the box, and it creates some good tension. There are a few silly moments – mostly of the “why didn’t _________ do this instead of that?” school, but you can level those complaints at any horror movie, and they don’t take the enjoyment out of something genuinely exciting.

A good horror movie isn’t always about straight up realistic plausibility, as movies in general are all about the willing suspense of disbelief. A good horror movie is about creating something so urgent, dynamic and exciting that it doesn’t matter how silly it gets, and ATM does that just fine. By the middle of the movie where they’re all getting colder and more desperate, I was getting genuinely into it, and by the climax, involving flooding ice water and a trash can on fire, I was pumped up. This movie, despite being pretty silly in its mechanics and logic, really brings home the bloody, heart-stopping thrills.

So, yes, next time you go to an ATM, try not to get trapped there by a crazy demented serial killer, because it’s generally not good for your health…and if you do, well…best of luck. Watching this movie would be a good enough tutorial on how to escape such a situation, and so I’d recommend it for that at least.

PS, Josh from Drake and Josh plays the best friend character in this...I mean, really, wasn't that just the ideal casting? When I watched that show as a kid, I know I was like, "this kid has to be in a movie about a serial killer in an ATM box someday."

PPS, I still think it would have been better to have a movie about killer ATM machines. "Please take your money...OR DIE!!!"

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