Sitting in the auditorium of a Dutch cinema, awaiting that day’s choice for the sneak preview, there is only one thing you are hoping for (unless you are capable of speaking Dutch fluently): May it be an English film production, may it be true that the Dutch never translate English-based movies, may it not, not, not be a Dutch production without any English subtitles. After casually paying attention to the Dutch ad clips, eating dazzlingly coloured sweets, washed away by some kind of apple spritzer, you hold your breath the moment the film sets in. ATM – a 2012 American horror film production. Hurrah – or not?
Now, there’s so much to dwell on concerning this movie that it seems to be a good one at first sight. To begin with, you might be asking yourself in what way the genre horror film is able to help you on – if at all. You pay money, eat some terrible junk food stuff, gulp litres of soft drinks, tolerate peculiar filmgoers, just to let some freaks emotionally terrorise you with their worn and blood-thirsty ideas of how the world could be even more brutal, unsettling and unnerving (at least at nights). In reference to that, the genre arouses questions like why people like to be entertained by cruelties in films like that. Which side effects of living in today’s (western) societies make people strive for artificial and exaggerated shocks? Next, you could argue what exactly the expression “films like that” might mean. Certainly, not all horror films are shoddy, which actually leads this review back to reviewing the film ATM (so far there hasn’t been a 100 % execution of this original plan).
To leave minor details aside and get serious again: The film ATM is crap. Some annoying guy called Corey accompanies a nice but shy guy David, who has offered a ride home to his colleague Emily, who he is secretly in love with. The whole plot sets in after the company’s Christmas party, at which – I apologise for having to mention it – Corey has been equally annoying all through from the first minute of the film. So, “absolutely annoying” Corey decides he is hungry in the middle of the night and in the middle of their joint ride in David’s car. Of course, “absolutely annoying” Corey does not carry any money with him to pay for the desired food, which is actually also the reason why he couldn’t travel home on public transport in the first place. “Obviously too nice” David agrees on enabling Corey to take out some money from a cash machine. Therefore, he stops at a deserted parking area in front of a supermarket. Up to this point, I felt relaxed because of the fact that the sneak preview did have an English film in store which – as I thought – seemed to be evolving a romance between David and Emily.
However, the mood changes when annoying Corey beckons “definitely too nice” David to borrow his cash card because – of course – Corey’s does not work. Which leaves Emily in the car alone, who decides to join them because she feels scared all alone at this deserted parking area. When they turn around to head back to the car, they are confronted with a hooded figure, who remains a hooded figure from start to finish. This hooded figure, and this is my biggest point of criticism, has got into his head to kill them all for no obvious reason. I mean, not that annoying Corey has not deserved some kind of punishment for his aggrevating behaviour. But who is the hooded figure to know that Corey is such a dork? The rest of the film basically is realising that none of the three carries a mobile phone with them to call the police, then running out of the ATM booth in order to reach the car, failing, being bashed by the hooded figure, running back to the ATM booth, freaking out inside the booth, being killed by the hooded figure as well as by each other and being accused of committing four murders. Yeah, wow. Especially because it is not the hooded figure who is accused of them but David.
To put it all in a nutshell, there are 5 minutes you don’t understand at the beginning but only at the end of the film, then 5 minutes of an evolving romance, then approx. 70 minutes of mental and emotional terror and finally 5 minutes of showing that the hooded figure starts to plan his next act of violence. There is no answer to the question why he does it or what for he does it, which is what I absolutely dislike about the film. At least, I would like to understand why and what for some cranky madman randomly kills people. Otherwise the film is senseless to me. If I just wanted to see some atrocities, I could turn on the news or watch some reports on wars in whereever on this planet. But that’s not what I want. I would like to understand why people act in a certain way and what outcome they expect from doing so. Otherwise I’d just learn not to halt at a deserted parking area, taking money out of a cash machine. And this can’t be it.