Claustrophobic horror needs to do a lot of things just right to succeed. It had to create believable, likable characters you want to spend 90 minutes with. It has to have a good reason why the characters are stuck. There have to be enough things in the immediate environment to allow for experimentation as the film unfolds. And, if you’re going to have an outside perspective on the environment, it better not be purposely obtuse so that it blocks key information that was always right there.
ATM is a claustrophobic horror film about a trio of paper thin characters trapped inside an isolated ATM booth by a super-powered sociopath. They whine, cry, and do stupid things until the credits roll.
Honestly, I don’t think there’s even a good horror movie in the premise. ATM booths like this are usually so wired up with security features that looking at the machine the wrong way sends police to the booth. I’ve yet to see a standalone booth in my life that doesn’t have a way to contact the bank or some outside organization for help. The concept does not logically hold up for an entire feature. At best, it could be a fast scare scene in a much larger story.
Let’s assume that, somehow, screenwriter Chris Sparking did manage to explain away all the obvious flaws in the premise. He would still need to use a room filled with pens, paper, and one or two machines to build plot twists, suspense, and story. There are not enough possibilities for action confined within that limited space.
Therefore, the suspense in such a story would have to come from the characters competing with outside adversity. The trio of heroes are not particularly compelling. There’s an attractive woman escaping the world of high finance to work in an NPO. There’s a handsome but unconfident young man who wants to be with the woman. And there’s a drunk, douchey third wheel who just wants to mooch off everyone else. Their dialogue is very awkward and the poor actors have no characters to work with.
That leaves the villain alone to build any suspense. Unfortunately, a silent Michael Meyers-like villain requires at least one strong hero to work against. For all the menacing potential of a sociopath tormenting victims in a seemingly innocuous location, there need to be an equally strong hero figure worth rooting for. The lack of character development for the heroes makes the silent unidentified villain the wrong choice for the story.
ATM takes a questionable horror concept and fails to succeed in even presenting it in a skillful way. There are bad horror films that at least tried to be good in some small way. This one is just too lazy from the ground up to even come close to success.
All I can say is woof. Anyone else slog through this mess? Feel free to sound off below.