Review: 'Motivational Growth'

By: Heather Seebach

One of the best things about film blogging is discovering a little-known gem I may never have otherwise found. Such is the case with Motivational Growth, a first-time feature from computer programmer-turned-filmmaker, Don Thacker. This indie horror-comedy is unique, trippy, nostalgic, funny, and surprising all in one handsome package. Fans of mind-fuck creature features (Cronenberg, Henenlotter, etc.) should enjoy this one. Children of the 80s will also find much to love here, as Thacker wears his love of the decade (and his skills in video game design) on his sleeve.

Set entirely inside one man's grimy apartment, Motivational Growth follows a day in the life of perpetual slacker and recluse Ian Folivor (Adrian DiGiovanni). When his beloved television set breaks, he becomes so depressed that he attempts - and fails - at suicide. He awakens to discover the mold on his bathroom wall has turned into a sentient fungal creature (voiced by horror icon Jeffrey Combs). The Mold gives him advice to turn his wasted life around but when Ian obeys, his quiet world becomes invaded by bizarre people and disturbing events.

From beginning to end, this film is fun. Imagine Brain Damage and John Dies at the End had a baby that was raised on 8-bit video games and LSD, and there you have Motivational Growth. Laced with witty dialogue and one-liners, it's one of the most quotable horror-comedies in some time. Thacker's script is heavy on monologue, but it's all so funny that the verbosity is welcome.

In the lead, DiGiovanni carries the movie effortlessly with humor and dedication. And Combs, who provides only a voice to the smooth-talking fungus, gives one of the funniest performances of his career (where he could have just phoned it in). Supporting them is a variety of bizarre characters who are all pretty great, even if a bit confusing. Expect that fourth wall to be broken.

The film is largely live-action, but does have moments of animation, faux commercials, and fantasy sequences. All look fantastic and belie the fact that this is a first-time feature. Thacker, who not only directed but wrote and edited, has a bright future ahead of him for sure. Elevating the movie further are solid creature effects (the mold puppet is just silly enough it works) and an awesome chiptune (8-bit) score by Alex Mauer. 

The only fault I can find in Motivational Growth is its run time, as it sags a bit in the middle. Still, that's nothing against how unique, surprising, and downright funny this little movie is. Once I finished the film, I wanted to watch it again immediately - and that's a pretty rare gift. While I don't understand all of it (yet), I don't need to. This one has cult classic written all over it. 

Motivational Growth is still making the film festival rounds. Follow the film on Facebook or Twitter to stay updated about its release. 


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