CELLULOID SCREAMS – Review: Motivational Growth

The Celluloid Screams festival opened with Motivational Growth, a film that explores the classic relationship between man and talking mould.  Ian, a depressed agoraphobic, slips and knocks himself out after trying to commit suicide and wakes up to a bulbous talking pile of mould that starts to help him rebuild his life. The Mould (voiced by Jeffrey Combs) is not as benevolent as he first seems however, and begins to mess with Ian’s head by persuading him to eat the fungi The Mould is able to self-produce. Cue bizarre scenes of Ian starring in TV shows we see him watching earlier and the development of a love interest he has been eye-stalking through the front door’s peep hole. Does it all work out for Ian? Does it heck.

The film is able to maintain the audience’s interest despite being set in two rooms with limited characters. This is down to the impressive amount of originality pumped into the film along with its strong dosage of dark humour. Visually it is stunning and the skilled camera work gives the illusion of a higher budget than there ever actually was. Writer and director Don Thacker talked about the struggle he had in filming due to the bad location of the set and monetary issues but this struggle does not come across in the movie at all. All we see is sharp camera work peppered by some intermittent and impressive 8-bit special effects and music. The Mould’s animatronics are also remarkable; the way The Mould is able to pulsate and speak in time with Comb’s voice adds to his imposing character and means we are able to accept him easily as being sentient rather than viewing him simply as a puppet with a voice.

Adrian DiGiovanni gives an outstanding performance as Ian and the character transformation from bleak cynic to hopeful shaven man is a pleasure to watch. Some of the other characters are less convincing (such as the delivery girl) and this is due to their limited screen time which, in turn, nullifies their opportunity for any sort of character development. Perhaps this is a deliberate choice however as a way of reflecting The Mould’s controlling personality as he quickly eradicates any new character (including Ian’s TV ‘Kent’) in order to remain the central focus of Ian’s life.

Motivational Growth is about as trippy as it gets, leaving questions open about what’s really going on in the film. It is slightly frustrating not knowing what’s real and what’s not, but this is something you just have to accept in order to enjoy the film. It is a rare example of a film that pushes the creative boundaries and actually succeeds. Sure it could have been shorter and some of the characters are rough around the edges, but it is overall a unique and creative piece of film that is likely to stay with you forever. I’m already certain that the tagline “The Mould knows Jack, The Mould knows” is going to be rattling around in my brain for the rest of my life and a lasting impact such as that is something only a small handful of films are capable of achieving.