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Motivational Growth

Other // Unrated // April 21, 2015
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted March 26, 2015 | E-mail the Author

The Movie:

Directed by Don Thacker in 2013, Motivational Growth tells the story of a thirty-something slacker-type named Ian Folivor (Adrian DiGiovanni). He's got some issues. He doesn't go outside and hasn't in years and the only thing he shows any interest in doing is watching his old television and more or less ignoring the world. You know what else he ignores? Cleaning. His apartment is a mess. Really, the guy doesn't have a whole lot to live for, a fact that he's not unaware of which is made clear to us early in the movie when he tries to kill himself after his set stops working. Like most things in life he attempts, Ian screws this up to but thanks to a batch of grungy mold growing in the corner of his bathroom, he winds up with a new lease on life.

That's right… the mold. It talks (and is voiced in the movie by none other than Jeffrey Combs). It's been left in his bathroom long enough that it's grown into something more. Soon enough the mold has convinced Ian to not only clean up his apartment, but to clean up his act as well. In no time at all he's a changed man, now able to interact with the outside world and even flirt with the pretty girl next door Leah (Danielle Doetsch), a lovely woman who he has carried a torch for and peeking on through his peephole for ages. He's still got to work out some of his issues but he and Leah hit it off and he owes it all to the talking mold. All of this comes to an even stranger boil when the broken down old TV set starts giving Ian messages that may or may not indicate that the mold is far more sinister than he realizes. Will Ian and Leah make it? Is the mold a helpful good guy or some sort of evil sentient being? How are the messages getting to our slacker hero through a broken TV set in the first place?

This is as much a strange character study as it is a horror movie, as the story really lets us into Ian's head (he narrates much of the movie directly to us on camera) and lets us get to know him, warts and all. He's a slob, a bum, and a goofball but he's likeable enough that once he starts getting it together, we want the guy to pull himself up by his bootstraps and make a go of it. Throwing Leah into the mix gives us further reason to care about the guy's fate, but that mold… it's a tricky thing indeed. It's much smarter and far craftier than your average fungus and as the story evolves, we learn that it is far more diabolical as well. The movie definitely earns bonus points for creativity in this regard, as it hops rather seamlessly from comedy to character study to gross out horror and back again. Some clever twists and turns in the script keep it interesting even when some of the supporting characters seem to come and go without much rhyme or reason, which is one of the movie's more obvious flaws. People are introduced, then vanish fairly quickly adding little to the storyline and at times making you wonder why Thacker would choose to shift his focus away from the Ian/Leah/mold triumvirate if there isn't much of a payoff in doing so.

As to the performances featured in the picture, things shape up well if not quite perfectly. Some of those aforementioned supporting players who pop in and out of the picture show varying degrees of skill in front of the camera but the leads all do decent enough work. Adrian DiGiovanni is pretty damn convincing as the depressed and inherently lazy slacker type. He not only looks the part but he has the right sort of blasé demeanor about him and it works. He's disheveled looking and initially quite downtrodden looking. He's well cast, as is Danielle Doetsch who plays Leah rather well. She's sexy enough that we can definitely understand why Ian would be intrigued but she has a niceness about her that's kind of endearing too. Jeffrey Combs, who most will recognize for his starring roles as Dr. Herbert West in the three Re-Animator movies, is a lot of fun as the voice of the mold and he gives the gooey, icky mass some genuine character quirks.

Good practical effects help to round out the show. The mold is an interesting looking bit of… mold. It's kind of gross and as the story evolves even grosser things happen around it. There are some amusing animated video game style bits tossed into the mix that actually make perfect sense in the context of the story and the soundtrack, which was obviously inspired by some of the old school video games that inspired the animated inserts, also works well. This isn't a perfect movie ,but it is a very creative, inspired, quirky picture that should appeal to those with a taste for the bizarre.

The Blu-ray:


Motivational Growth debuts on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed properly in a 2.35.1 widescreen aspect ratio. The movie was shot on high definition digital video so obviously there is no print damage or grain to note. Clarity of the image is pretty decent with nice detail evident throughout, close up shots in particular. With much of the movie taking place inside there isn't a ton of bold colors to really make the transfer pop the way another movie might, but the colors are reproduced quite well here. Black levels are solid and there are no problems with edge enhancement. Some minor compression artifacts can be spotted here and there but otherwise, for a movie made on a modest budget, it looks quite good in high definition.


An English language audio option is provided in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio with optional subtitles provided in English only. No problems to report here, the track is clean and nicely balanced occasionally offering moments of impressive channel separation. Dialogue remains easy to follow throughout the movie and there are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion. Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 track are also included, also in English.


The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary track with cast members Jeffery Combs and Adrian DiGiovanni joined by writer/director Don Thacker. This is a fairly lively talk with the two actors discussing their roles and what went into creating their characters. Thacker delivers a bit more of a technical approach discussing the ‘how and why' behind a few scenes but he too talks up the performances and shares some insight into the script, the editing, the effects and more.

There are also a few featurettes here: Inspiring Growth: The Mold is an eleven minute piece about the practical effects work that brought the mold to life, The Fall Of Ian: The Stunts spends six and a half minutes with showing off, in a humorous way, some of the stunt work that was done in the film by the lead actor, Grime, Blood & Goo: Building The Gore is a twelve and a half minute piece that, as it sounds, focuses on the gore effects featured in the movie and last but not least, The Characters spends twenty-minutes letting the cast and crew discuss the characters that populate the movie.

Outside of that we get a still gallery, a teaser trailer, two proper trailers for the feature, trailers for other titles available, menus and chapter selection.

Final Thoughts:

Motivational Growth is as entertaining as it is bizarre. It's not going to be a movie for everyone but if you've got a taste for twisted horror comedy odds are pretty good you'll get a kick out of this one. The Blu-ray looks and sounds pretty decent and it's got a nice selection of extras, highlighted by a pretty interesting commentary. Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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