Ian Folivor (Adrian DiGiovanni) is not living the dream. He is a moping, unwashed, unhealthy mess who hasn’t left his apartment for months, maybe years. You can tell too. There’s trash all over the floor, food scattered around the room and he looks like he’s been using shit as detergent and farts as deodorant.
The only solace Ian has is his trusty old TV set, that he’s adorably named Kent. Kent has seen Ian through the darkest of days, and thus he has developed a bond with this outdated, giver of entertainment that is borderline creepy. So, when Kent dies without warning, joining all the other TV’s in Home Entertainment Heaven ™ Ian does the only thing a grieving lover can do, and that is attempt to kill himself.
If that had been the end of the movie, then Motivational Growth would simply have been one very sad, messed up short about one man’s love for his TV. Fortunately then, this is not the end but the beginning. After failing to end his own life, but succeeding in knocking himself unconscious, Ian wakes up on his bathroom floor and quickly discovers that he is not alone. The mold, which has been gathering in the crevice of his bathroom wall, is alive and it’s pretty pissed off at how selfish Ian has been.
Don Thacker’s feature directorial debut is as excellent and as bonkers as it sounds. Sure, it masquerades as a horror film, but it’s far more complex than that. It’s a tale of one man’s descent into madness, as he explains away all his unforgivable actions as the directions of a blob of ego-maniacal mold living next to his toilet. The mold convinces Ian that it can help him turn his life around, just so long as he follows its instructions and never questions it. It’s a metaphor for depression if ever I saw one.
Of course, you don’t need to look at Motivational Growth in that way at all. You could just take the film at face value. Take away all the symbolism and you simply have a rather fucked up tale of one man and his mold. And that works too. Especially when the mold is voiced by horror icon Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator).
I first saw Motivational Growth at the Celluloid Screams festival in Sheffield back in 2013. Like many, I’d never heard of it up to that point, but after seeing Don Thacker deliver his intro pre-screening, I was sold instantly. It screened at the same time as The Battery, but perhaps had even more of an impact on me because it is simply so unique. If Thacker’s debut feature could be this original, and this good, then what else does the guy have in store for us, and can our tiny minds handle it?
If you haven’t seen it then I’d recommend you hunt a copy down as soon as you finish reading. It’s a real pièce de résistance, and one of those rare multi genre gems that is so out-there it will probably never find its way onto TV, and many will miss it. And if you don’t find a copy, then the mold will know. And we must never forget: “The mold knows, Jack. The mold knows” – and you do not want to piss it off.