This column has a bias. I’ll admit it. Being based in Portland, and with, let’s face it, most of the population and filmmaking community in the state based in more southern reaches, the overwhelming majority of film folk profiled here tend to be from there. But there’s filmmaking taking place all over Maine. And, sure, I featured the Down East animated pot comedy of Rockland’s O’Chang Studios and the low-budget horrors emanating from Bangor’s Cemetery Studios. But Maine moviemakers are working all over our fine state – even, as it turns out, in the Waldo County town of Searsmont.
That’s where Maine filmmaker Matt Enos is based. Growing up in Belmont, Enos left his home state to study cinematography at New York’s prestigious School of Visual Arts, where he attained a bachelor’s degree in film. But since returning to Maine, Enos has applied much of his creative energy to “The Slim Duffy Show,” a web series in which Enos plays the titular Duffy, a dimwitted Mainer whose guileless nature constantly finds him beset by bullies, creeps, scammers and the occasional alien invasion or zombie attack.
Made alongside high school friends like Mike Urchin (who plays the sexually predatory J.T. Smash) and Cade Nickels (who splits duties between director of photography and his portrayal of bandage-wrapped tormentor Burned Charlie), Enos calls the show “surreal, slapstick comedy.” And it is that, as Enos’ lumbering naïf is repeatedly menaced, bludgeoned, buried alive and otherwise tormented, only to turn up unscathed at the start of the next of the series’ 24 episodes. Same goes for main nemesis J.T., who has his head blown clean off in the second episode, only to return to slimy life in the next installment. The series features plenty of medium-fi computer and practical effects to comic effect as part of the overall grubby fun.
Enos, like many young aspiring filmmakers, had tried his hand at a lot of different genres and styles before the first episode of “Slim Duffy” went up on YouTube in 2016. Enos cites his frustrations with making his feature-length, Maine-set crime thriller “Trouble Down East” as part of the inspiration to go in Slim’s decidedly less serious direction.
“I was dong more dramatic stuff,” said Enos, “experimental horror and crime stories. But we weren’t having much of a trajectory or getting much attention.” And so, “The Slim Duffy Show” was born, starting out with a five-minute short film where hapless graveyard attendant Duffy is stalked, beaten and finally, yes, buried alive by J.T. Said Enos, “There was no plan of making a series. It was just a goofy little movie, but it got a pretty good response online, so, since I felt bad for Slim being stuck buried alive and all, we decided to make a sequel where he gets his revenge. From there, it went from this clever little cat-and-mouse thing to something much more creepy, degenerate and dark.”
Enos isn’t kidding. This is the part where I warn potential viewers that “The Slim Duffy Show” fairly overflows with toilet humor, profanity, near-nudity, all manner of sexual situations (including sexual assault) and basically anything destined to turn off those not attracted to deliberately offensive juvenilia. The affable and unassuming Enos cites comedy influences from “South Park” to “Ren & Stimpy” to “Kids In the Hall” to Canadian purveyors of rural white trash comedy “Trailer Park Boys” as inspiring his ongoing series, while claiming that “The Slim Duffy Show” also incorporates a uniquely Maine flavor in the form of some of the more colorful characters in his neighborhood. “Not everyone in the north is that way,” Enos said, laughing, “but, as you go deeper into the woods, you tend to find some of the more interesting people.”
In watching a handful of episodes before our talk, I was moved to ask Enos about those stereotypes, particularly the flamboyantly gay and invariably sleazy J.T. Enos folded the character into the show’s abundance of broadly comic grotesques, although his explanation that the character’s inspiration comes from the discomfort of straight guys being hit on by gay men isn’t especially enlightening. As Enos explains, Urchin, who plays the character, “is the nicest guy in the world,” and that nobody involved in the series harbors any ill will toward the gay community. Still, Enos does admit that, were “The Slim Duffy Show” more well-known, “we’d probably get a lot more pushback.” As Enos puts it, the filmmakers don’t set out to “have anything be (expletive) or hateful.”
Still, to reiterate, there’s plenty in “The Slim Duffy Show” that’s going to push people’s buttons. Or, if you’re not into scabrous button-pushing gross-out comedy, maybe the stop button. Still, the internet is a wide and wonderful playing field for those filmmakers and viewers looking to try something different, and Enos has been nothing if not industrious in trying to build the Slim Duffy brand. He and his team have produced music videos (like “The Redemption Center Song”), comic books and merchandise, all centered on the humble dummy Duffy, and the show’s creators made their first-ever personal appearance at November’s Bangor-based Pine State Con comic convention. For Enos, making films away from the more active centers of southern Maine is a challenge, sure. But, as he puts it, “When you want to do creative stuff, and you like doing it, you’re going to do it, no matter where you are.”
“The Slim Duffy Show” and other, equally disreputable, Maine-made comic works from Matt
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
Friday-Sunday: 2019 Oscar-Nominated Short Films. PMA helps you get a leg up on your annual Oscar pool by giving you a chance to see all the live-action and animated short films nominated at this year’s Academy Awards.
Monday, Feb. 11: “Rififi.” Jules Dassin’s stellar 1955 film noir, about tough guy thief Jean Servais navigating the twists and bloody turns of a botched heist. Presented alongside Portland 16mm film preservationists, Kinonik.