Directed by David Brooks
Just in time for the company Christmas party, David (Geraghty), an accountant, loses the life savings of a client. He isn’t in the mood for the festive celebrating, but his friend and coworker Corey (Peck) convinces him to stay by telling him it’s his last chance to ask his crush out before she leaves the company for a more lucrative position. He finally works up the nerve to approach Emily (Eve) and offers her a ride home, but his romantic gesture is thwarted when Corey insists he also give him a ride. Not only does Corey want a ride home, he decides he’s hungry and has to stop at an ATM because the lone restaurant open only accepts cash. Once inside the ATM booth, the three see a hooded faceless man in a parka who watches them from the parking lot. They debate about whether he’s dangerous . . . until he viciously kills a man walking his dog without provocation. David, Corey, and Emily must find a way to escape the ATM booth before the hooded killer – or the cold – takes their lives.
This film was written by Chris Sparling, the writer behind the indie darling horror flick Buried, starring Ryan Reynolds. In that film, Reynolds discovers he’s been buried alive by an unknown assailant and has a limited amount of time to escape before he runs out of air. Apparently working under the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” axiom, Sparling went to the “trapped in a small space by a ruthless faceless killer” well again for ATM, albeit adding two more people and a slightly bigger box. The problem is that this film is built on a very unsteady foundation of plot contrivances and dumb decisions made by the three leads. ATM is also plagued by extremely clunky dialogue and a significant lack of chemistry between all three actors, but particularly Geraghty and Eve.
This is what film nerds call an “And Then” script. The writer starts out with a basic premise and a “clever” ending, but no connective tissue, which forces him to search for a way to get from Point A to Point B. It can be a great brainstorming technique, but if it’s not fleshed out enough, the final script comes out as a stilted timeline of events with no depth to them. Not only does the killer go to extreme lengths to murder three random people, but the victims have ample opportunity to get away/get help and spend most of the time arguing instead. The film is also about 20 minutes too long; five minutes could have been cut from the beginning and the last 15 minutes were completely unnecessary as they rehash what a smart audience has already figured out. The kills were pretty standard and I found the killer more funny than scary, mostly because of this:
A film with only three people is a tough sell if those people are unlikeable and unsympathetic. Ostensibly, Geraghty is the lead, but his wooden performance makes him unbelievable as the potential hero. His interactions with Eve are painful to watch, particularly in the first act as they gamely try to flirt with each other while Peck whines about being hungry in the backseat of the car. Peck, best known for his role as Drake Bell’s sweet, chubby step-brother in Disney’s “Drake and Josh”, is almost unbearable. He was clearly cast as the douchey friend, but he was so grating I kept wishing the other two actors would push him out of the booth and let the killer get him. Eve brings nothing to the story other than being attractive, which audiences of Star Trek: Into Darkness already know by now. Margarita Levieva (Adventureland, “Revenge”) was originally cast and I would have really liked to see what she did with the role.
This never got into “so bad it’s good” territory and was definitely more frustrating than funny. Unless you want to watch three stupid people stand in a box and argue, or you like screaming at your television screen, I would skip ATM and watch Buried instead.