Out of My Mind (Short)
Some of the most memorable horror stories of the past 30+ years involves authors, or artists drawn into the terror of their creative work. “The Shining,” “Misery,” “Stephen King’s It,” “John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness,” “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” are just some of the ones that have stood out to me over the past decades. Now, this isn’t to say that Cindy Maples’s new horror short film, “Out of My Mind,” is in that rarified company, but if it isn’t, it’s not far off. What it does is boil the central premise of a writer drawn in to the terror of their work down to a simple conceit, and pluck that first string and watch it vibrate, only to leave it there when the credits roll. You don’t have to resolve everything in a film like this, you just have to leave the audience asking the right questions. Maples definitely accomplishes that.
The film starts out with an author (Carter, played by Rusty James) at his computer writing a story that happened to him at a celebration of Mystery Writers. He’s recounting a story about seeing a blonde woman, dressed in blue (Mina Fedora), across the room while having drinks with his friend (Michael Diton-Edwards). He goes over to talk to her, but her date (Clint Calvert) comes back to the table just as he’s getting over there. He goes back to his friend, but as Carter is writing it out, we get glimpses of tension between the woman and her date, leading to a tragedy. Carter is having trouble sleeping- is his story keeping him up at night? When he gets an unexpected visit in the middle of the night, it rattles him further.
Maples’s screenplay, from an original story by John Cosper and co-written by Neil Kellen, deals with subtle hintings that life and art are blurred in the writer’s mind, and leaves us with a development that makes us wonder if everything we just witnessed was the truth, which is to say, what happened throughout the night to Carter was truly the product of his mind, or something else entirely. For the second film in a row (after her short last year, “Random”), Maples displays a keen sense of style and visual inventiveness that aids in bringing the story to life, while also adding depth to what we are witnessing at the moment on screen. She’s an actress, first and foremost, but her work as a director is some of the most exciting I’ve seen in a few years. I can’t wait to see what comes next from her.