Last night I trudged out in the rain to the Nickelodeon for a showcase of four SMCC student films shown back-to-back at the 2nd annual Maine Mayhem Film Festival. I was particularly excited for one of the films, which I had given a modest contribution via Indiegogo a few months back.

Upon arriving I was pleased to learn the festival had sold out, and the theater was jam-packed with excited movie-goers ready to root each other on and appreciate some quality student films. Below is a short recount of my thoughts about each film. Thanks to everyone involved with the event, I had a blast!

Staged Illusions

Created by Kazmyn Trouant, Staged Illusions is a tongue-in-cheek satire about the dramatic lives of local superheroes. The Magician (Tom Godfrey) teams up with his invisible friend Jim (Robert Lowrie) to fight crime and fool the town into thinking The Magician has incredible superhuman powers. Things are going well, until one day a real superhero, Captain Victory (Jeremie Buck) blows into town in all his spandex-y glory, quickly winning over the hearts of the locals.

While this movie did squeeze a few laughs out of me, I can see why it was chosen as the first reel for the evening. I was a bit disappointed in the sound quality, but I understand that these students are filmmakers first, sound designers second. The highlight for me was definitely the quality of Tom's acting as The Musician. He was great in the conflicted superhero role, and it was captured nicely by Kazmyn.

Marshmallow

Marshmallow lived up to its label as "a trip into the bizarre." That's for sure. Filmed by Justin Lacroix, the script for this movie was originally intended to be a short narrative, but has since morphed into the twisted art film we all witnessed last evening.

I found myself captivated throughout the film, wondering if or when the main character, Pat (Dave Shaffer), would finally snap and do something rash. Pat was an intense, estranged fellow who wore a dirty, furry white cat suit (yup) and cooked up drugs in his equally dirty barn. He was tripping on said drugs for most of the movie, and Justin's visual effects and choice in music were surely indicative of that. After Pat's cat was run over he seemed to completely lose himself, and sought revenge on the careless driver. With Marshmallow, I felt inspiration from movies like Donnie Darko and Eraserhead, and I'd love to see more from Justin in the future.

Vigilance

This was the movie I was most pumped to see, and Sean Martin did not disappoint. Riding on the success of his first short film, Time & Redemption, Sean wasted no time releasing his second film, Vigilance as a project for one of his film classes. Vigilance is the tale of Andy Brooks (Benjamin Row), a hotheaded teenager who frequently gets himself into troubling situations. On each occasion he is then saved by a mysterious, masked vigilante. An investigation of the masked man is rekindled and pursued by Detective Wallace Ricks (Daniel Noel), who lost his wife to a murderer and yearned to catch this merciless vigilante.

I loved how the film was shot, and I think black and white was a good choice. I could feel the tension building during the movie thanks to the incredible sound design and carefully calculated scene cuts, and Daniel Noel totally killed it in the role of detective. I was a bit unsettled about the anticlimactic way the movie ended, with the vigilante turning himself in, but it is rare that a movie with a crazed murderer sees the error of his ways and finds it within himself to apologize, own up to said wrongdoings, and accept the consequences of his actions. All in all, another great one from Sean!

Ushers

After two very intense short films, I was glad to learn that the evening would end on a much lighter note. Ushers, an Office-style parody glimpse into the lives of movie theater employees really got me laughing. Humor is such a hard thing to do well, and this group totally nailed it.

Every role was funny in its own way, from the dorky hands-on manager right down to the creepy bearded manboy on a power trip. Usher successfully cheered me up after finding out earlier in the day that NBC might completely slash it's primetime lineup (30 Rock, The Office, Parks & Rec, and Community. Gone. I KNOW. *sadface). But thanks, Ushers, for that brief respite of silliness.