How Far Are You Willing to Suspend Your Disbelief for a Horror Movie?

How Far Are You Willing to Suspend Your Disbelief for a Horror Movie?

Nov 15, 2012

Welcome to The Last Horror Blog, a bi-weekly column on all things horror.

The Collector in The Collection

The Big Horror News

Marcus Dunstan shows off gory goods in The Collection clip – We’re just over two weeks away from the debut of Marcus Dunstan’s The Collection – a sequel to his fan-favorite 2009 film The Collector. To help get everyone in the mood, Dunstan shares this behind-the-scenes look at what viewers can expect in terms of bodily dismemberment in the sequel. The short answer? A lot.

The Collector is back and looking to add to his collection on November 30.

Savaged trailer reminds us of the golden days of exploitation cinema – What do you get if you cross I Spit on Your Grave with Native Americans and possession? You’d probably get something like Savaged. Michael Ojeda’s audacious low-budget film finds a young woman brutally raped and left for dead after an encounter with a group of rednecks. When a local shaman saves her, she’s possessed by the spirit of an Apache warrior and sets out for bloody vengeance!

The first trailer for the film can be viewed below – and we’re kinda interested. The premise is outrageous, the gore on display looks over the top, and the whole classic grindhouse era feel should appeal to anyone who remembers and reveres films like Ms. 45. No word on an official release date yet, but we’ll keep you posted. 

Sanctuary lands at Paramount – Joel Silver’s Silver Pictures has found a home for supernatural thriller Sanctuary – the upcoming fright flick will now live alongside Paranormal Activity at Paramount.

The story “focuses on a young woman who is possessed by a powerful demonic force. She seeks refuge within the Sanctuary, a Vatican-run secret organization that teaches the possessed to channel their inner demon and use its power as a weapon against evil.”

Lionsgate scores rights to Danielle Harris' Among Friends – Scream queen Danielle Harris’ directorial debut, Among Friends, has finally found distribution thanks to the folks at Lionsgate.

The Halloween and Hatchet star shot the film in 2011. Here’s a plot breakdown, followed by a slightly Not Safe for Work trailer:

"Among Friends is a horror comedy about a dinner party gone wrong. Set against an '80s backdrop, good times take a dark turn when one in the group hijacks the evening in the name of integrity. Through an attempt to help the others come clean about secret betrayals against one another, it’s revealed who's willing to cut through the bone to expose the truth. Starring Christopher Backus, Jennifer Blanc, AJ Bowen, Dana Daurey, Brianne Davis, Kane Hodder, Kamala Jones, Alyssa Lobit and Chris Meyer."


Horror Review

With two produced screenplays under his belt, I think we can now say that screenwriter Chris Sparlin is a fan of writing stories about people trapped in enclosed spaces during horrifying situations.

Sparlin’s first script – which became Rodrigo Cortes’s thriller Buried – found a U.S. contractor buried alive in Iraq with only a cell phone to connect him to the outside world. His latest, David Brooks’ ATM, finds him upping the number of people in peril (it’s three now as opposed to one) and changing their tomb from a sandy grave halfway around the world to a much more mundane enclosed ATM booth.

Of the two, Buried certainly seems more plausible – which highlights the biggest problem with ATM: It really stretches the viewer’s willing suspension of disbelief. Hitchcock acknowledged that it was OK to make a film with plot holes, provided those plot holes were only recognized later that night, while the viewer stood staring into his refrigerator in search of a late-night snack. This has since gone on to be called “refrigerator logic” or “icebox logic” – and it makes sense. The place where plot holes become a problem, according to Hitch’s thinking, was when we notice them during the story. Unfortunately, we notice them all too often during ATM.

The film opens with young investment bankers David (Brian Geraghty) and Corey (Josh Peck) headed to the company Christmas party one December night.  David decides to bail early when the object of his unrequited affections, Emily (Alice Eve), needs a ride home. For whatever reason, Corey winds up along for the ride. A midnight snack attack leads to a stop at an enclosed ATM machine – and while inside, the three are menaced by the arrival of a sinister man in a hooded parka. Suspicions that this guy is bad news are confirmed when he brutally murders a man walking a dog in the parking lot. From there, it’s a fight for survival as they try to escape their glass trap.

The premise of ATM alone is a bit hard to swallow, but Sparlin does his best to sell us on the idea that these folks are really trapped inside and that they can’t escape. The killer, for reasons that eventually become clear, never makes an attempt to enter the kiosk (because he could have, easily, since it’s a glass booth). Instead, it’s like a life-or-death game of tag – and the ATM machines are the base.

What makes us accept this weird situation is a bit of cinematic misdirection. Sparlin and Brooks put a lot of effort into making us wonder who this guy is so we don’t spend as much time picking at the loose threads of the tapestry they’re weaving. It’s obvious from the very start this parka-wearing madman (who reminds me of the killer in Urban Legend) isn’t just some thief or casual criminal. He stalks the three leads. He never says a word, but he’s clearly taunting them. He pulls up a chair in the freezing parking lot and sits and watches them as they struggle to figure out how to get out of their situation.

This kind of buildup of the killer is a pretty decent way to get viewers to focus on things other than the premise’s inherent implausibility. The thing is, for the ending to work and for viewers to leave feeling satisfied, there has to be a payoff to this narrative throughline.

I won’t spoil ATM (although not spoiling it makes analyzing some of its problems harder than it should be. I guess Sparlin deserves a tip of the hat for that), but I will say that the film’s final revelations are wholly unsatisfying. Sparlin did a pretty good job of wrapping up Buried in a way that left the audience feeling as though things ended satisfactorily (if not necessarily in the way they hoped). He goes for a similar approach here, but the whole thing feels a little too O. Henry for my tastes. What should have been a personal story quickly becomes impersonal and very ambiguous. Ambiguity can be great when handled properly, but ATM fumbles as it crosses the goal line. The film feels like a Saw wannabe from the Dunstan and Melton era, only minus the gory traps.

Geraghty, Eve and Peck do their best to make the absurd situation believable, but it’s hard to overcome the inherent silliness of three people being trapped in an ATM. I’ll give Sparlin and Brooks props for keeping the idea afloat as long as they do (and to their credit, they manage to do that for about 40 minutes), but even the acting isn’t enough to distract us from the film’s repeated assaults on our intelligence.

Brooks does deserve some credit for the film’s visual aesthetic, though – shooting an entire project in a parking lot and enclosed ATM is pretty challenging, particularly since the ATM booth is glass. It would be pretty easy to get a reflection of the crew in a shot, or a glimpse of someone off camera through clear windows, but I didn’t notice any while watching. Brooks does manage to make the viewer feel cold and isolated and alone – but again, this is an ATM machine in a parking lot in a relatively populated area. The entire premise of the film just feels really contrived.

I’ve always been a believer that there are films that manage to be greater than the sum of their parts, but ATM is almost the opposite. There are some good components that went into crafting this film – including a decent cast and some competent direction. However, as decent as those parts of the recipe are, the script overshadows them. I get why this film was produced – it’s a great high concept idea that can be pitched in a simple logline: “people get trapped in an ATM while a menacing killer toys with them from outside.” The problem is that expanding on that logline eventually leads to a lot of instances where the audience is asked to suspend their disbelief. A little willing suspension of disbelief is a good thing – too much ruins the experience. I’m not sure if there was a way to take this premise and make it plausible, but if there is, ATM didn’t quite nail it.

Horror on the Horizon

If you’re hoping to catch some horror in the theater during the Thanksgiving holiday, you’re completely out of luck. There’s not one horror movie on the release schedule for the next two weeks. The closest you’re gonna get is the last Twilight movie.

Things aren’t any better on the home video front, either. The week of the November 20 has a lot of low-budget stuff with the only moderately interesting title being a rerelease of Mark of the Devil.

November 27 is equally dry, but if you have kids there’s at least ParaNorman’s debut to tide you over.

The post-Halloween season is especially cruel this year, horror fans.

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