Parallel Minds has a lot on its mind. Maybe too much. Writer-director Benjamin Ross Hayden’s sci-fi thriller weaves a complex story about memory, power and tech gone awry. A murder-mystery kicks it off. A horror sequence concludes it. It’s an abundance of micro-budget filmmaking moments. It bursts from the seams. As with most small genre productions, Parallel Minds feels built quickly and cheaply, with a certain amount of desperation — and not necessarily the bad kind. Its plot is doled out in expository dialogue by actors lit and shot in utilitarian fashion. Sets are well-dressed but sparse. Aside from a few purposefully disorienting sequences of technological tomfoolery, there aren’t many moments of overbearing aesthetic excess.
Margo (Tommie-Amber Pirie) is helping to develop a new technology, Red Eye, a contact lens that helps the wearer store and recall memories. When her boss, Elise (Michelle Thrush), shows up dead just before a major breakthrough, Margo teams up with detective Thomas Elliot (Greg Bryk) to determine why. Their search leads them to uncover the truth about Red Eye, which is pretty devious. The poster shows a mysterious creature, so it isn’t a spoiler to say that the story does lead to a pretty cool movie monster.
Few indie sci-fi movies feature a character actually landing the delivery of a line like this: “If I can create a feedback loop with the right magnetic oscillation, I can overwhelm it … giving it the equivalent of an electronic heart attack.” Kudos.
There are spiritual elements and, of course, a central character through-line about the grief that defines the pasts of both Margo and Detective Elliot. This is, after all, a story about a tech-monster that comes to life through a memory machine. Although filled to the brim, Parallel Minds still works as a story.
Of course, it’s still micro-budget science-fiction. It feels like a local production, the sort of adventure presented to friends and close family (at least in the before times, when theaters still felt like the place to gather everyone you care about in a poorly ventilated room). Watching this type of story requires forgiving creative choices that might sink another film. This is not a professional production. But it’s an entertaining and, when it comes to the final boss, visually impressive bit of craftsmanship.