Originally reviewed for Battle Royale With Cheese
‘Motivational Growth‘ is the 2013 dark comedy/horror film from Writer/Director Don Thacker and has already been well received on the festival circuit; winning several awards.
The story revolves around Ian Folivor (Adrian DiGiovanni); a reclusive slacker who dispels his own schizophrenic, self-effacing view of the world. The film opens with an excellent stylised montage of retro trash TV as Folivor flicks between channels on his old TV set ‘Kent’; his only companion as he spends his life on the couch. When the set malfunctions Folivor attempts to bring an end to his miserable existence; he wakes up after knocking himself unconscious only to discover The Mold (voiced by horror veteran Jeffrey Combs) is talking to him. He starts to take advice from The Mold and begins to clean up his act but as the story continues we see this relationship turn sinister; think Little Shop of Horrors but without the songs.
DiGiovanni pulls off a transformative performance as Foliver, a character that jumps around from scene to scene whilst never losing the essence of himself. Cut-aways both live-action and animated put Foliver inside the TV shows he used to watch and the TV set becomes almost a character in itself here. Foliver is also confronted with interference from the outside world in the form of his violent Landlord ‘Box’ (Pete Giovagnoli), TV repairmen, a grocery delivery girl and a neighbour, Leah (Danielle Doetsch) who becomes his love interest. This all feels slightly dis-jointed and perhaps distracts from the core of the story some what; confused further by a mix of character narration, straight drama and fourth-wall storytelling.
The special effects are reasonable but what really makes The Mold standout is the exceptional voice work of Combs, which makes this a menacing, believable horror baddie even though it is fairly static in terms of actual action; this is great trick in the toolbox for any low budget film-maker (the budget was estimated at $176,200).
The production design and visual style excel here. The score and titles imitate retro 8-bit video games which while not particularly related to the story does give the piece a unique ‘mishmash’ style; perhaps an attempt to cash in on rise of ‘geek culture’. Despite taking place largely on one set consisting of just two rooms the film is never visually boring or oppressive.
The film is reminiscent thematically and visually of the Coen Brother’s ‘The Big Lebowski‘ and Danny Boyle’s ‘Trainspotting‘; there is a strong element of visceral ‘hyper-reality’ while at the same time featuring a lot of surreal sequences. The writing is strong overall although the story does tend to wonder off on tangents of a bizarre nature but is compelling as a whole; this is one of those films you have to watch if only out of sheer curiosity of where the plot will go.