BR: Motivational Growth (2013)

November 15, 2015 | By


MotivationalGrowth_sFilm:  Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Excellent

Label: Parade Deck Films / MVD Visual

Region: Region A, B, C

Released:  April 21, 2015

Genre:  Black Comedy / Horror

Synopsis: An unemployed computer programmer regains part of his life under the malevolent influence of a huge hunk of talking mold growing in his bathroom.

Special Features:  Audio Commentary with writer-director Don Thacker and actors Jeffrey Combs and Adrian DiGiovanni / 4 Making-of Featurettes: “Inspiring Growth: The Mold” (11:16) + “The Fall of Ian” (6:31) + “Gore, Blood & Goo: Building Gore” (12:34) + “The Characters” (20:25)  / Teaser +Theatrical Trailers / Photo Gallery.






Written way back in 1998 (!), Don Thacker’s tale of a schlub and his highly personal relationship with a massive clump of mold in his filthy bathroom has strong overtones of Frank Henenlotter’s uniquely odd canon – if not with its central human figure being an outsider / loser, then the outright surreal nature of a co-star who’s clearly not your average human.

Unlike Henenlotter’s Brain Damage (1988) or even Frankenhooker (1990), Thacker’s story doesn’t unfold as reality but as a possible fantasy world in which Ian Folivor (comedian Adrian DriGiovanni) finds himself after an attempted suicide proves highly unsuccessful. Waking up with a bloodied jaw on the grungy linoleum floor, Ian realizes the voice he’s been hearing isn’t his subconscious but The Mold (voiced to absolute perfection by Re-Animator‘s Jeffrey Combs), a rather arrogant glob that insists on being formally addressed (The Mold!), and persuades his protege to devour its own special ‘offerings’ – edible control mechanisms – lest Ian attempt to free himself from the power of The Mold.

The Mold initially helps Ian better himself – indeed, the schlub transforms from a bearded lazy bum living in a cluttered pigsty to a manicured schlub, imbued with enough confidence to flirt with Leah (Danielle Doetsch), a pretty next-door neighbour he’s been ‘door stalking’ via his peephole – but it’s all a ploy to control and eventually spawn more mold, breeding enough dependents for a purpose that’s never fully revealed because when the twist ending comes, it’s the one most viewers suspect is on the horizon.

Thacker adds enough small details to hint at what aspects of the narrative are reality, but for a while the relationship between a schlub and a hunk of fungus is fascinating – mostly because DiGiovanni plays Ian as a believable everyman nerd, and Combs gives The Mold so much personality with his soothing voice and slick attitude. Thacker’s dialogue for the fungus is a little reminiscent of the ‘man behind the painting’ in George Barry’s Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977) – maybe not as poetic, but no less of an intellectual with a knack for wit in place of profanity.

And yet The Mold’s lack of potty words is made up by grotesque requests and biological transformations which Ian dutifully fulfills, including a kind of goo-foaming, lactating nipple protruding from wall tiles that causes the suckler to levitate; spouting putrid vomitus, and dismembering in the bathtub a very persistent delivery girl (Hannah Stevenson) after a second attempt to receive unpaid gratuities. There’s also a TV-humping repairman (Ken Brown), a bully landlord (Peter Giovagnoli) named Box the Ox, and pretty Leah who seems perfectly okay with starting a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship with a self-confessed door stalker.

Motivational Growth has a lot of elements worthy of turning it into a modest cult classic, but it’s almost undone by a running time that reflects Thacker’s insistence on following through with every scripted monologue and surreal moment rather than keeping an eye on taut pacing – a problem Henenlotter generally kept in check with tight editing.

Thacker’s story has many secondary characters, including Kevin, a vintage General Electric TV console who provides Ian with a vital source of entertainment and a window into the outside world, given the unemployed computer programmer hasn’t ventured outside in months.

A former programmer and avid video game connoisseur himself, Thacker’s packed his film with all kinds of video game references and in-jokes (including setting his film in 1991), but the film wouldn’t be as sleek and immersive of game lore and apocrypha without Alex Mauer’s excellent score – performed with vintage game gear, yet crafted with a wealth of performance nuances typical of a skilled band of musicians. Themes, motifs, and underscore may sound like game emulations, but they deliver a wide variety of moods, and suggest Ian may be living out one bizarre trip that’s either in his mind, within the TV set, or something else.

MVD’s release (a burned MOD disc) is loaded with extras, including an informative director commentary outlining Thacker’s great instincts in creating production value from nothing for an ambitious production, details on the visual design (nicely realized by cinematographer Bliss Holloway, using a pair of Canon 5D and 7D), the music, effects, and set decor. Making-of featurettes focus on the brilliantly designed animatronic Mold (vastly more affecting than anything CGI), some great (and grotesque) practical stunts, and the cast and their oddball characters.

More info and cast / crew interviews are available at the film’s website.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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