Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

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Alice (Susan Blakely) is the lone survivor of an attack by the “kabuki” serial killer who has been terrorizing the city. Bereft by the death of her daughter, Alice is institutionalized by her husband Victor (Wings Hauser) and undergoing treatment by Dr. Meltzner (Richard Masur). But when Alice is released and takes a job writing copy for horror movie marketing campaigns Det. Williams (Edward Albert) begins to plant serious doubts in Alice’s mind about who the killer actually is. Teetering on the brink of insanity, Alice is convinced her daughter still lives and will stop at nothing to find her.

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind (1990) is a low budget, straight-to-video feature from director Greydon Clark of Uninvited (1988) fame. Clark is adept at moody set pieces and barrows freely from Day Of The Dead (1985) and A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) to concoct his rather derivative, yet affecting, take on psychological horror. Clark digs into the hallucinatory sequences with delight, throwing every trick he can think of into the mix. Unfortunately the majority of these spectacles fail to match the raw emotional intensity of Susan Blakely and land with a hallow thud.

While budget constraints and a haphazard post-modernist aesthetic often broadcast the technical and artistic limitations of Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind, Blakely does everything in her power as an actor to elevate the material. Blakely’s performance is so raw and genuine that it often highlights the missed opportunities of Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind. This is particularly disappointing in the scene where Alice watches a screener tape of an upcoming horror movie and experiences a melt down. A scene that could have explored the way that the horror movie genre allows for the safe exploration of trauma is reduced to a typical beat of dramatic functionality that amounts to nothing more than cause and effect.

When an actor gives a layered and vulnerable performance in a B-Movie it can sometimes happen that the movie as a whole suffers for it. Clark’s brand of sleazy scares and re-packaged goods is not up to the task of collaborating with Blakely’s performance. As a result a kind of schism occurs in the tone of the movie where there is the authenticity of Blakely on one side and the over the top spectacle of Clark and Hauser on the other. The work that Clark does is mediocre, but Hauser is always committed to his own manic form of performance. Clark makes the kinds of schlocky movies an actor like Wings Hauser thrives in so it is little surprise that when the cult film star is on screen Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind tends to be most coherrent.

Over the course of ninety minutes, Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind goes through a plethora of tonal shifts; so many that they actually out number the plot twists in the final act of the film. Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind may be a deeply flawed film, but it is these rather unique flaws that make the movie compulsively watchable. It’s a kind of surreal experience to see the type of vulnerability that Blakely brings to her part juxtaposed by the cheap thrills of Greydon Clark and the hamminess of Wings Hauser. Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind is a great film for the connoisseur of weirdo straight to video genre pictures.