The Mercury Cycle: Only Opportunities Ahead
By: Alexandra Kozinski
Some college students spend their free time partying on the weekends. Others, like Cody Hoerig (Director), Vincent Grippi (Writer), and Zach Salsman (Director of Photography) of Quinnipiac University created a full feature-length film in their spare time. What started as a summer project for Grippi quickly turned into the Quinnipiac Film Society’s baby and grew into a year of filming and over a year of post-production – all under a budget of about $25K.
Perhaps just as unique as the story behind the making of this film is the actual story concept. For a film which initially started out as somewhat of a “school project”, the complexity of the plot is wise beyond its years. David Bushell, played by Bobby Ceriello, is on a mission to channel happiness, which he believes is only attainable by going back into his past. When David accidentally discovers his outcast of a roommates Shamus’s weekly “meetings” are really cult sessions, he is determined to find out what is actually going on right under his nose. Despite the grim-reaper-like costumes and the fact that the cult members’ identities are literally and figuratively shrouded – referring to one another as “Brother” and assigning a number to each person – David’s intrigue overtakes his fear and he decides to sit in on one of the sessions.
What he discovers is a pill that when taken, induces “The Mercury Cycle”, which transports users into their own past. After taking the pill, the audience is not only seeing David observing a younger version of himself, but the film allows the viewer to feel his undeniable happiness in that moment. This sort of unspoken communication with the audience is what takes the way this movie was directed to another level. Through Hoerig’s direction, David’s character communicates to the audience in ways that cannot be expressed through scripted word. This emotional connection continues throughout the film, and it all comes to a peak when David and his female counterpart, Lana McGill are faced with a decision which will ultimately determine their fate.
One of the most impressive visual aspects of the film is getting to watch David’s physical and mental trips back to his past. The special effects jolt the viewer in sync with David and allow the viewer to experience the journey along with him. The shakiness and chaos on the screen emulate the emotions David is feeling and force the viewer to become emotionally attached to his past as well.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the movie is that the audience is left to interpret David’s experiences based on their own philosophies on life. The Mercury Cycle was written and directed to make the viewer think and draw interpretations – not hard conclusions – based on their own lives. This ambiguity leaves room for people to argue and discuss the many possibilities that are posed throughout the movie. To watch David ultimately become the driver of his own fate is empowering not only for a college student like David, but for anyone watching the movie who may be questioning his or her own personal happiness.
The chemistry between the cast members is undeniably one of the biggest draws of the film. Despite their diverse acting backgrounds, they came together fluidly in months of rehearsals prior to filming so by the time it came time to shoot, their performances had become second nature. In reality, there were some bumps in the road, which may have set some of the most seasoned film directors back. The original lead actress for the role of Lana McGill dropped out last minute. Hoerig, however, pushed through this unexpected twist and started to shoot all scenes she wasn’t in. When he, and the other producers finally found Jessica Merigan for the role, he condensed two months of rehearsals into one week – and it went off without a hitch.
The motto on the set of The Mercury Cycle was “there are no problems, only opportunities”, and with that positive mindset, these college students were able to pull off one the most impressive film projects ever created by undergraduates. A private screening for the cast, crew, and student body got an exceptionally positive and enthusiastic response.
With “only opportunities” ahead, The Mercury Cycle has nowhere else to go but up.
The Mercury Cycle: A Warning to Nostalgics Everywhere
By Heather Rudow
For some people, their past is made up of moments they breeze through without a second thought, but others place these memories on a much higher pedestal. They are always looking to the past, sometimes thinking about days gone by as often as their current ones.
I’m one of those people who falls into the latter category. I frequently immerse myself in nostalgia, and my room is filled with old letters, tickets stubs from concerts and t-shirts I’ll never wear again. But aside from a minor hoarding problem, it’s also the reason why the premise of the psychological thriller The Mercury Cycle immediately captured my attention.
What would happen if someone like me, who is always looking backwards, had the chance to literally visit past memories and experiences? Would it help me become a better person? Would I look back on my life and feel nothing but regret?
College student David Bushell (Bobby Ceriello) faces these questions head-on, after stumbling upon the mysterious world of The Mercury Cycle.
David is painfully shy and perfectly content with being invisible among his classmates. While the thought of standing out terrifies him, David also believes that there is nothing unique about him to set him apart.
“I have long ago ago accepted there is nothing to me,” he says. “I am a simple rhyme sequence.”
Later, we find that David ‘s severe social anxiety stems from the death of his mother, which altered the course of the his life forever. From that traumatic loss, David then experienced the loss of his close-knit circle of friends, and spent the rest of his days with his father, who had turned into a petrified recluse because of the ordeal. David is someone who is wants to forget his past, but is also haunted by it.
Getting to know a beautiful, quirky classmate (Jessica Merigan) challenges David’s introverted tendencies, but just as he begins opening up and branching out he is caught up in his past and the challenges brought on by his association with the cult responsible for The Mercury Cycle.
When cult members take pills handed to them by their leader, they then are transported back to select memories in their past. Though not a member of the cult himself, David is lured in at the thought of visiting previous, happier times in his life and steals a bottle for himself.
At first David gets pleasure from seeing moments with his mother from when he was a kid and spending time with his witty, human-embodied subconscious (Jason Upchurch). But when the cult catches on that someone has infiltrated their group, the lines start to blur between the future and how much control we really have over our fates. David realizes that visiting his past has far more consequences than he ever considered.
Philosopher George Santayana warned that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But The Mercury Cycle offers a warning for us nostalgic addicts to take heed of: those who are too consumed by the past might just be doomed.
A gripping film from start to finish, The Mercury Cycle leaves audiences wondering what they would do if they could see their past- and how much they would risk to change the future.