Did you know mold can be motivational? Well, I guess not just any mold, but The Mold, specifically. And don’t make the mistake of referring to it as anything else, The Mold doesn’t appreciate it.
In the new film Motivational Growth by writer-director-editor Don Thacker, The Mold (voiced by Jeffrey Combs) is a sentient fungus living in the corner of a bathroom with no shortage of suspect encouragement that he is constantly providing to his symbiotic human partner, Ian (Adrian DiGiovanni). Ian has been going through an existential crisis and concluded he is, in fact, meaningless, and there is clearly no reason for him to ever exit his apartment ever again. He has not cleaned or bathed in many, many weeks. He’s disgusting. And when his beloved television set named Kent shorts out, Ian opts out and prepares to end it all, until he encounters The Mold.
From here out it’s a bit hard to explain what happens. You become immersed in a surreal world contained within the two rooms of a tiny apartment in which time, logic, and human interaction are governed by no rules except those of The Mold. Also, as made evident by Ian’s rad cassette tape collection and the bizarre selections of programming on his TV, it’s the 90s. Combined with its video game inspired 8-bit score and an entertaining selection of animated sequences, fake television shows, and commercials, Motivational Growth is its own fully realized world of weird. And the weird just keeps layering and growing — dare I say, much like mold?
Yet it’s not only weird, it’s also stimulating in a series of ways; there’s a fantastic philosophical aspect to it. Motivational Growth is, of course, jokingly prodding at Ian’s outlook and self-proclaimed lack of purpose, and then provides him with even stranger purpose. The television, which is very quickly established as its own character through elaborate shots of its construction, opens a channel to treat its technology with a certain reverence that verges on religious worship. While all these complex ideas are being hinted at, a vomit joke goes on for like a full minute and it’s absolutely hilarious. Motivational Growth delivers intellectual stimulation paired with gross-out humor, and there’s nothing better than that.
Every single character is a well developed freak in the tiny Motivational Growth universe, no matter how long they are on screen, and every actor handles the out-of-the-ordinary script with a lot of talent. The writing has a very unique cadence to it, and the cast tackles it impressively. You hate Ian, then you pity him, and then you love and root for him. I want to also draw attention to the plasma TV obsessed repair man (Ken Brown) who is one of the first to appear at Ian’s front door. His performance is utterly bonkers, and had me laughing hysterically.
This film is a lesson in making a low-budget look like a few million dollars. At no point in the entirety of the film are you aware of the budget because everything is done to such expert quality. At the Q&A that Director Don Thacker gave following the screening of his film at the 2013 Buffalo Dreams Film Festival last weekend, he excitedly gave away plenty of secrets behind how he crafted a low budget into such a high grade feature. Hire brilliant people. If someone is truly skilled at their craft, you don’t need million dollar equipment. And it’s true; the camera work is stylized, and the set, the lighting, the puppetry, it’s all spot on.
The goo that really holds this genre-bending absurd world together is The Mold itself. The talking puppet is the highlight of the film, spewing clever prose and green dust. It’s nightmarish and silly all at the same time. The Mold even has a twitter and he’ll respond to you. The Mold is everywhere.
This is Thacker’s first feature film, but he’s already energetically chatting about his many current and upcoming projects, all of which sound absolutely awesome. Motivational Growth is still traveling the film festival circuit, screening primarily in genre festivals and categories. If you can catch a screening with Thacker present, I highly recommend it. He’s highly entertaining in front of a crowd and gives one of the best Q&A sessions I’ve ever attended — so if it’s anything like the Buffalo Dreams screening, you won’t want to miss it.
Motivational Growth will be screening this weekend at the New York City Horror Film Festival. You can purchase tickets and find more information on the festival here: https://nychorrorfest.com/