Monday, March 11, 2013

I've SEEN the Growth. Motivational Growth.

So I haven't been around the blog much lately, I realize. I hope no one's missed me... and I realize probably no one has. And then the cutting starts.

I cut out sugar cookies. And bake them. And then I eat them. With my awesome family. And I don't care what the internet thinks about me. So huh.

Be that as it may... I have recently been allowed to view the movie directed by Don Thacker, "Motivational Growth" that I blogged about a while back. It was... an experience.

Let me tell you one thing: This is not your average horror movie. It's actually a stretch to even call it a horror movie (in the traditional sense) at all. It has horrific events that happen throughout, and it will almost certainly make your skin crawl and maybe even trigger your gag reflex in a few sequences... but it seems more a surreal exploration of existential crisis. With... a story going on. 

The movie opens on Ian, a depressive shut-in who hasn't left his apartment in months. He has pretty much given up on life, hygiene, the universe, and everything. 

So pretty much my average Saturday night. 
It appears Ian has a deep emotional attachment to only one thing in his life: His television. It is a dinosaur of a television set, handed down to him from his parents. Ian has named the set Kent. Well, as we see the story open, Kent dies. Kent's death elicits a... strong reaction in Ian, to say the least. 

Goodnight sweet prince.
So strong in fact that he appears to begin addressing the viewers of the movie directly. As he does this, he begins explaining to us the ins and outs (sometimes literally... painful... outs) of his current existence, while preparing to end his own life. This action is the one that sets up the series of events that make up the rest of the film. 
What a 16-bitch.
Ian's world for the rest of the movie seems to be counter-balanced by two different forces: Kent and the numb escape that he represents... and the rampant, aggressive force of life that is The Mold. A hard-talking yet motivational-speaking mold growth in Ian's bathroom. There are a series of bizarre encounters with people visiting Ian's apartment, strange visions where Ian participates in the shows on his television, and of course, interactions with The Mold... which may or may not be responsible for the more... psychedelic sequences of the film. 

These guys are adorable.
The whole thing could have turned out to be a wreck of a film if it weren't for a few very important factors that hold the whole thing together like crazy (literally crazy) glue:

1. Jeffrey Combs. Jeffrey Combs is the voice of The Mold that begins interacting with Ian and trying to get him to "clean" up his act. Combs is of course quite a prominent voice actor these days, what with his appearances in shows like Transformers Prime, and the new Nickelodeon TMNT show. His voice performance in Motivational Growth is no less epic, and shows us a side of the actor that I'm almost 100% certain we've not seen before. He oozes (sometimes literally) charm and chutzpah. A street-tough, silver-tongued master of manipulation and influence. He feels at times sinister, and at other times we wonder if that's just a part of his front. His motives are not entirely clear in why he tries to help Ian... but the fact that he wants something is crystal.

2. Adrian DiGiovanni. The man we spend the entire movie wondering what the hell is happening to this guy? is played by DiGiovanni. His Ian is fractured, raw, and vulnerable. He's given up, but he desperately wants a change. He wants to be rebuilt. He wants to change, but he doesn't have a clue how to go about it. He spends scenes speaking directly to the camera for extended periods of time, and other scenes careening wildly through various different television show realities like a pinball. He must make interacting with a sentient mold growth in his bathroom seem realistic, shocking, and mundane all at the same time. He also spends a huge amount of his time exuding anxiety, depression, agoraphobia, xenophobia, and then in equal measures he has to make the various climbs in and out of that emotional pit seem believable.

You try selling this.
3. The WTF Factor. Don Thacker's film is paced in such a way that it never really gives you the time to contemplate the batshit insanity that is being perpetrated from one moment to the next. What could easily have been viewed as a seizure inducing chain of images, characters, dialogue, genies, 16-bit animation, breast-spores, death scenes, unreality, and puppetry... all coalesce into something that feels like it actually has a deeper meaning, a story to tell, and themes that actually matter. It's just the kind of movie where one viewing is not necessarily enough to suss that all out. It's a testament to Don Thacker's ability to write and direct a compelling if disturbingly confusing film.

Like this compelling if disturbingly confusing thumb.
Overall... I enjoyed the hell out of this film. I genuinely wanted to see Ian rescued from the brink. I loved the interaction of forces throughout. I thought for a first feature-length film that Don Thacker and his cast made what is destined to be a cult-classic on the same level as Rubber or yes even my beloved Bubba Ho-Tep. It has its weaknesses. Some of the performances from the supporting cast could have been tweaked and in some cases... eliminated altogether. Some of the confusion seems to be played for the sake of confusion itself. Some of the television sequences were definitely stronger than others, and the 16-bit animated sequences, while clever and beautiful... don't really seem to support the rest of the film in a real way except to create a feeling of heightened reality.

This happened.
But warts and all, I want to see this film again. I want to see other people, seeing this film. I want so see this film become more than a film. I want to see it ingrained in the sub-culture the same way great cult classic films do. I want message boards online where fans argue over the meaning of this film, the different forces at
play within it... and just what the Hell is actually happening.

After seeing the film thanks to Don Thacker's incredible generosity, I also rattled off a list of questions via e-mail for Mr. Thacker. He took the time out of his busy schedule promoting his film to... well promote his film some more, but he answered my lengthy list of questions anyway.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Academy... Don Thacker.
Those questions, broken up into two parts will be featured on the blog very soon. He gives us some really interesting insight into the history of the movie, working with the cast he did, and some of his own personal observations on... just what the Hell is actually happening.

That's it for tonight though. I'll be back soon with more Goodwill Goodies. Until then, Happy Hunting!


  1. This looks like my kind of movie. How do we actually go about seeing it?

  2. That's an excellent question! One I put to Don Thacker himself. He says that they are still shopping the film around the festival circuit, trying to find a distributor. It may take time... it may not. Ultimately, to see it out there, there has to be some significant buzz about it ahead of time.


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