There were only two reasons I wanted to check out this rather routine-looking slasher flick. First, it costars Josh Peck, best known for his comedic work on the small screen. By the time Drake and Josh ended its successful run on Nickelodeon, he’d really come into his own as a performer, and I was excited to see how he’d handle more dramatic material. He didn’t disappoint, bringing a very natural levity to the earlier scenes (his years in television clearly taught him how to deliver a good punchline) and effortlessly shifting gears as the situation grew increasingly grim.
The second reason was the screenplay by Chris Sparling, who also penned Buried (2010), the claustrophobic Ryan Reynolds vehicle helmed by Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes.
I love Buried. Cortes makes the most of his single location, crafting a fascinating experiment in suspense that would have made Hitchcock proud. But one plot development prevents it from being truly great, at least in my opinion; the cobra that slithers into the coffin is a pure contrivance, plucked out of thin air because the filmmakers needed something more concrete than a dwindling air supply to menace Ryan Reynolds. Worse, our hero demonstrates a stunning lack of intelligence by attempting to set the scaly intruder on fire–the least sensible solution a man in that predicament could possibly have come up with.
Sadly, ATM’s entire premise hinges on a similar moment of stupidity: the characters park roughly a football field away from the eponymous machine, for the flimsiest reason imaginable (the protagonist wants to punish his annoying coworker for forcing him to make the stop); had any of them thought to simply move the car after Josh's debit card mishap–rather than walking the full distance through frigid night air–the killer’s (implausibly elaborate) plan would have immediately fallen apart.
That should tell you everything you need to know about the caliber of storytelling on display in Sparling’s sophomore screenwriting effort.
[Originally written November 12, 2012.]