Oh, Netflix. You’ve provided such easy access to so many great movies over the years. So why oh why do I find myself watching the by-products of such unevolved creative minds?
Single-location horror movies are advantageous for two reasons: 1) they’re cheap (if you’re smart); 2) and they’re easy to follow (if you’re smarter). Where ATM fails is not in the choice of location, or the complexity of its story, or the intensity of its scares (though deplorable those three may be), but in the sheer quality of its writing. The whole movie feels like a first draft that was only revised once: in the editing room, during post-production. A movie called ATM should hypothetically begin at, or near, or on its way to an ATM. Sadly, the “creative” team behind this thought it better to “tell the story” of how the three central characters arrived at said ATM.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Shy Guy at boring job is in love with Hot Girl who has no personality, but she’s hot so we have to like her too. Shy Guy also has a Loud Friend who constantly chastises him for not having “the balls” to do this or that or whatever. At a company Christmas party, it’s revealed that Hot Girl is leaving the company for another job, so finally, Shy Guy grows “the balls” to tell her how he really feels. He does this outside, in the cold, while she’s trying to hail a cab, and then he gentlemanly offers her a ride home even though she lives “really far”. Does he bring Hot Girl to his car like a gentleman? No. He makes her wait, outside, in the cold, while he goes inside, in the warmth, to tell his Loud Friend that he’s leaving. But his Loud Friend is now drunk and having none of it, for you see Shy Guy was supposed to be his ride home tonight, and Loud Friend has no cash to take a cab. Shy Guy also has no cash to lend him. In fact, no one at this company Christmas party has any cash on them at all. At this point, I feel the need to mention they all work in the Finance department. There is one person who had enough cash, who the writer seems to have forgotten about: the Hot Girl. She was outside trying to hail a cab after all, and as I mentioned before, she lives “really far”. Shy Guy could have done the gentlemanly thing and offered to… oh look at me trying to make this hopeless movie better. Let’s move on.
All three of them are now in the car, and Loud Friend has a hankering for some drive-thru. But, as mentioned before, he has no cash. So they need to find an ATM poste haste. Minutes later, they’re at the most remote ATM in the history of remote ATM’s. It’s dead-center in an empty parking lot in the middle of nowhere. It looks like the photo hut in Back to the Future that the Libyans’ hippie van crashes into at the end. And how close do they park their car to said ATM? Oh about 100-feet away, because it’s winter, and they’re already miserable, and that makes it difficult to identify collective stupidity. After some “problems” with Loud Guy’s debit card that somehow takes all three of them to solve, they turn around and see a Creepy Man in a Parka standing outside between the ATM and their car. If this was 30 years ago, he’d be wearing some kind of mask. But shadows are the new masks, and a parka at night is the icing on this already tasteless cake. Like all horror movie victims, the main characters don’t know how to react upon first seeing him, so they just resort to screaming at him through the glass. And that’s when a man walking his dog in the middle of the night in the dead of winter just happens to pass by, and Creepy Man in a Parka beats this innocent man to death right there in the parking lot. Now the three main characters are afraid for their lives and trapped in this ATM. But Creepy Man in a Parka doesn’t have a debit card, so he can’t get in, but that also means they’re stuck in here.
What follows is a series of attempted escapes, mostly consisting of running outside, finding out they’re screwed in some way, and then running back inside. They even do the “fake killer” cliché halfway through the movie where a man dressed exactly like the killer walks in and they “defeat” him, only to see the real killer standing in his usual spot after they’ve already done they’re horribly un-heroic deed. And what single-location horror movie would be complete without the main characters succumbing to the stressful environment and spewing hateful accusations at one another, effectively stripping them of whatever likability the writer thought they had to begin with?
Without giving too much away, I would like to say there is no payoff at the end. There is no “big reveal”. There is no defining moment where it all comes together. Just an end credits sequence intercut with blueprints of similarly claustrophobic locations suggesting the killer plans to strike again. And again. And again. But I, for one, hope that he never does.
1 out of 5