“No Service” (2015): Incommunicado Writer’s Fear Grows Because of Frantic Voice Mail

superScaryShortsSaturdayHow much can civilization change when someone takes a short break from it? A terrifyingly great deal, at least in the world of the microbudget short horror film No Service.

Leah McKendrick is both the writer and star of No Service. She portrays Olivia, a writer who has headed to the woods to work on her current project. She hasn’t checked in recently with her significant other Zack (the voice of Ryan W. Garcia) or her mother (the voice of Jeanette O’Connor). She has no cell phone signal in the place she is staying so she drives down a quiet road until she finally gets one. She finds that Zack and her mom have left many messages for her, each one more frantic than the previous one. The directions for her in their admonishments keep changing and becoming more desperate.

Olivia (Leah McKendrick) will soon find that her lack of cell phone reception is the least of her problems in No Service.

With a running time of four-and-a-half minutes, No Service starts slowly, establishing how isolated Olivia is. Business begins to pick up just after the halfway mark but the short still takes its time getting to the payoff.

No Service relies heavily on Leah McKendrick’s acting, and she does a nice job as Olivia’s emotions go from frustration to confusion to fear and worry in about two minutes’ time. Her screenplay isn’t heavy on dialog but it is effective in its slow-burn approach to making viewers, along with Olivia, wonder just what is happening. Director Kholi Hicks captures McKendrick’s performance quite well.

Leah McKendrick gives a convincing performance as a woman who receives ominous messages for loved ones in No Service.

Bereft of showy special effects and shot in broad daylight, No Service is an entertaining short that relies on building tension and uncertainty to deliver its jolt. According to Leah McKendrick, it was shot in one day, so it is also a testimonial to independent filmmakers running lean and mean and getting things done.

No Service: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.