There’s a ‘golden’ rule that in movies one must “show not tell”. This rule is far from golden, and never has it’s redundancy been so demonstrated as within the horror genre. In fact, in writer/director Michael Gallagher’s The Expressionless, he turns telling into a scary tool in its own right. The film opens with a computer generated voice issuing: “WARNING: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC VIOLENCE AND DISTURBING IMAGERY. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.” There’s something disturbing about those computer generated voices that sound quite accurate to normal human speech. An auditory uncanny valley. It’s a great move that immediately sets a tone of dread and believability.
The main thrust of the film is takes the form of a dramatised urban legend; a woman calmly walking into a hospital with her own throat slashed, before being restrained and attacking the staff. It’s simple, and the lack of explanation, combined with the aforementioned opening dialogue means we thoroughly buy into it.
Often a weaker point in shorts, the acting is really good. The screaming, running nurse, and the petrified terror of nurse Linda (Jana Winternitz) really sell the crisis and ratchet the film’s tone up towards a narrative crescendo.
Denna Thomsen is good as The Expressionless herself though she’s pulling a lot of familiar tricks out of the monster bag. One can’t help but make comparisons to Hannah Fierman’s role as Lily in V/H/S. Indeed Lily is shot like the face-splitting monster in the Amateur Night segment, and brings to mind many other recent creepy female roles. The genericness doesn’t matter though; this is a film about reactions, not the monster, and it delivers its goals brilliantly.
Then top it off, it finishes with more text to leave you with a lingering fear. It’s the perfect ending. Sometimes cinema is in the telling, not the showing.
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