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Friday, June 7, 2024

Isolated Horrors: Appreciating the 2012 Horror Movie ‘ATM’

There’s something about an isolated horror flick that just makes you feel at home. Kick your shoes off, relax, and make a snack because we’re not going anywhere. Yes, there is a huge man outside wearing a giant parka who wants to beat your face with a tire iron but hey we’re home for the night. Settle in!

Today, we’re talking about 2012’s ATM which features two guys and a girl trapped in an ATM kiosk booth in the middle of the night as the aforementioned killer wearing an Urban Legends parka stalks them. In the movie, Brian (David Hargrove) has a huge crush on Emily (Alice Eve) and finally works up the nerve to ask her out at a company party on her last day. It’s all very Can’t Hardly Wait for the white-collar workforce until his absolutely horrendous friend Corey (Josh Peck) hijacks the situation and asks for a ride home. Corey then turns into the shitty adult version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and asks for pizza. Then he needs to stop at the…..wait for it…..ATM.

The three of them end up inside the ATM booth in the freezing cold when the killer shows up outside. He murders a man walking his dog in super violent fashion so that they know he means business; then stares at them through the glass for far more than an appropriate amount of time. What is the appropriate amount of eye contact after someone watches you commit brutal murder, anyway? Assuming (or was he?) the kiosk locks from the inside unless you have a bank card, the killer then cuts off their only supply of heat and attempts to break inside the small booth as the three try to survive the night.

This film is hated by far too many. Ripped apart upon release from both critics and viewers alike. To this day, if you want to see a dead body you can just head over to anywhere that aggregates reviews and search ATM. Some of the reasons are fair and some aren’t. There was a time in horror where anything that could be conceived as a “gimmick” was immediately disregarded. In reality? These were just subgenres, not gimmicks. Found footage, M. Night style twists, “torture porn,” etc. I think some general audiences felt angered by ATM because they felt it was trying to dupe them in some way by spending 95% of the movie in a parking lot. But that’s kind of the whole point, right? What worked wonders for a thriller like Phone Booth ten years prior was considered a dumb gimmick when it came to horror. But there were some fair reasons for the hate, too.

ATM was written by Chris Sparling, the writer of the critically acclaimed Ryan Reynolds thriller Buried, and part of the vitriol may have come from folks expecting much more from the characters. There are a plethora of dumb decisions made by our characters in ATM. I mean a full buffet of full throttled dumb-shit decision making that will have you throwing literal rotten tomatoes at your own 70-inch Smart TV and screaming obscenities. The character of Corey is so obnoxious that you’ll be rooting for parka man at times. Some of the dialogue is also very Captain Obvious in a “What are we? Some kind of Suicide Squad?” sort of way. For instance, the bad guy will start to march towards them and someone will say quite blandly “Oh my God, he’s walking towards us” as we can actively already see that he is walking towards them. Some of the dialogue actually feels made up on the spot. All three of the characters we spend our time with are as one-dimensional as can be. The shitty friend, the beautiful “good” girl and the soft-spoken nice guy with no backbone who wants to date her. The few attempts to deepen any of these characters never really goes anywhere. You’ll find yourself far more interested in the villain than in what’s going on with these three.

But that’s where ATM shines!

We’re introduced to our protagonist during an almost Seven like opening credits sequence where he draws up the intricate schematics for his parking lot of pain (sounds like a WWE PPV match). He has carefully selected this very isolated ATM in this dark parking lot on this cold night. He has thought of all the angles and set traps all around the parking lot like some kind of satanic Home Alone super fan. He’s basically the Batman of murder in small places. This is all he does. His bat-cave? A storage unit in the middle of nowhere. You almost have to respect the dedication and the talent of this sicko. The planning of a Jigsaw, the physically intimidating appearance and anger of a Jason Voorhees (okay, a human Jason Voorhees) and the mystery of Michael Myers. We have no idea what in the shit his motive is. Will we ever?!

If you like your homicidal maniacs to have a sense of sadistic humor, this guy literally grabs a lawn chair at one point and pops it open (just like the dude from the famous GIF) as he sits down to watch his victims suffer. ATM may in no way be a perfect film but I feel like audiences overlooked what an interesting villain we had at the helm. Maybe I’m insane but I see Saw-like potential for a franchise here. Every Halloween. A new group of folks. A new location. How will he do it? Will anyone survive? Will they divulge any new information about him? ATM had franchise potential written all over it and I’d love to hear the creators’ thoughts on this because I can guarantee you they were thinking the same.

Though low on gore, the makeup team of ATM does a fantastic job showing our characters naturally becoming more and more like human popsicles as the film moves forward. You can feel how cold these folks are. It’s actually pretty disconcerting. When something violent happens to someone who tries to escape the booth or perhaps shows up to help, the stabs, punches and face slams into the concrete are all the more painful than they’d have felt at a normal temperature. We all know how much more it hurts to stub your toe when the house is cold. Imagine a guy the size of Goldberg smashing your face in a freezing cold parking lot. Director David Brooks does an excellent job reminding you just how cold it is, making the weather a character in and of itself.

When it comes to the ending and the twist, ATM “swings away” harder than Merrill from Signs. Like me at 38, trying to squeeze into my emo jeans, you really have to get stretchy with the material to make it work. They do a decent enough job of walking you back through certain moments to make it believable, but I think we’re all pretty skeptical that things would’ve worked out that way. I’m trying to be as spoiler free as possible here in case anyone hasn’t checked out ATM yet. But if you’ve seen it, you get it. And you should!

ATM can absolutely be a frustrating experience at times. But there’s a fascinating villain and a whole lot of “what would I do in this situation?” moments that make for a fun movie to watch on the right night. Would you just make a run for it? Try to face him one on one? Jump him? Give your friend a piggyback ride and drop them on their head? I want to say we would have all done better than our main characters here. But let’s agree to never find out, yeah?

The post Isolated Horrors: Appreciating the 2012 Horror Movie ‘ATM’ appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.



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