Director David Brooks On How He Kept Thriller ATM From Veering Into Lunacy, Plus The Movie’s Occupy Wall Street Connection

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ATM David Brooks interview horror tropes spoilers

With hotly anticipated horror films like Silent House and The Cabin in the Woods sucking up all the buzz, it's easy to lose track of smaller indie features in the same genre. But a good horror movie doesn't have to depend on a huge budget: Take ATM, an enclosed-space thriller in the vein of Frozen and Buried. (Actually, Buried screenwriter Chris Sparling penned the script.)

It's a tale of wrong choices and bad circumstances, when finance employees David (Brian Geraghty), Corey (Josh Peck), and Emily (Alice Eve) find themselves trapped in an ATM vestibule with a menacing hooded figure watching them from outside. They're frozen in trepidation even before the stranger in the parka murders a would-be ally and then methodically works to pry them out of their glass prison.

We got the chance to talk to ATM director David Brooks, who enthusiastically detailed the process of constructing this film as well as entertained our questions about horror movie tropes. You'll find that in some ways ATM follows familiar formulas, but at key points the characters behave in unexpected ways, and the ending is a rare twist in the horror genre.

Crushable: I feel like this movie, maybe moreso than other horror movies, is a lot about the impact of the choices the characters make. Could you speak to that?

David Brooks: It’s tough for me to compare it to other movies in the genre, necessarily, but for me, certainly, that was part of it. The idea of making choices and if we are the sort of randomness or not of those choices and how they impact us, that was definitely a theme that Chris and I talked about wanting to play up.

Did you build the ATM vestibule? Where did you shoot it?

We shot the film in Winnipeg, Canada; we basically found a parking lot and built us a vestibule set… We built it in such a way that we could manipulate all the walls. The lighting was for the most part built in and we could augment it as we needed to; we had tracks built into the ceiling. It was, I guess, as efficient as we could make it.

What was it like working with Josh, Brian, and Alice? On such an enclosed space, in a twenty-day shoot, were there moments where they got claustrophobic or stressed out, or a time when you had to take them aside?

The challenging and the great thing about shooting such a contained film, and it’s cold and miserable and all the rest of it, is that it bleeds into what the characters are going through… For the most part, they were on board and ready to go with that journey. There’s certainly moments where it’s difficult, you’re shooting all night. I was very lucky in the actors all really wanted to be there and they were excited about delving into this and the challenge of it. It was really just working with the beats with them and making sure everything felt real.

Was there anything they ad-libbed?

There’s always those little moments. It’s not like they were necessarily improvising whole scenes or lines, but as a director it’s so much fun to watch the actors come up with those little moments that surprise you and surprise the camera operators, and sometimes you just get it in focus. That’s great.

Next: Walking the thin line between cars crashing into the vestibule and it still coming off as a realistic horror story.

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