Genre actor Jeffrey Combs voices his strangest role yet as talking bathroom mold in this unclassifiable film

A reclusive man falls in his bathroom and begins taking life advice from the mold growing on his walls. It is a bizarre, outlandish premise that almost works. Motivational Growth is one of these movies that is simply out there, a quirky gross-out film that mines laughs from its outrageous concept. The highlight of the film is Jeffrey Combs as the voice of the Mold. The veteran actor lends his voice to one of the strangest characters seen in recent memory.

Ian (Adrian DiGiovanni) is a depressed man living alone in a filthy apartment. Ian’s life is up-ended when his television breaks. He hasn’t left his apartment in months. His life has become so pathetic he has actually named his old tube television – Kent, specifically – and treats it like a friend. Unhappy with how his life has turned out, Ian attempts suicide in his bathroom by mixing chlorine gas.

Ian soon wakes up from his failed suicide attempt, hearing the fungus on his bathroom wall speaking to him. The Mold begins giving life advice to Ian, promising the confused man its advice will change his life for the better. The Mold even promises that following its advice will help Ian date his attractive neighbor, Leah (Danielle Doetsch). Ian has been spying her for months through his peephole as she walks by each day. Other odd characters pop in and out of Ian’s apartment, including a bizarre television repairman that licks Kent and a gruff landlord demanding rent.

Motivational Growth is a film that practically defies genre description. The core of the story is the uneasy relationship between Ian and the Mold. Does the Mold want to genuinely turn Ian’s life around, or does it have an ulterior agenda? The movie is also steeped in a nostalgia for comedies from the 1980s. There is definitely a heavy Weird Science vibe to some of the proceedings and the Mold’s design. One of the film’s most distinctive aspects are the retro video game sounds in its soundtrack. Ian ends up traveling at one point through a spoof of Eighties’ TV shows, including a mildly amusing sitcom called Alien Cop. It is this blender-mashed collage of tributes which sets Motivational Growth apart from other disturbing films.

Motivational Growth isn’t for everyone but its cult film ethos should find an audience.

The story does take strange twists and turns to the film’s detriment, particularly how the abrupt relationship between Leah and Ian is handled. Motivational Growth has a specific sense of humor most capably delivered by Jeffrey Combs as the manipulative Mold. The genre icon has been a popular voice actor for many years, it is no surprise his performance shines as the pushy fungus. Less enthralling are the more amateurish roles handled by an unknown supporting cast. This is closer to a c-film than a b-film; the nicest things about the production values are solid practical effects and a few dazzling nods to 8-bit video games.

Writer and director Don Thacker certainly had a wacky idea. Motivational Growth isn’t for everyone but its cult film ethos should find an audience. There are some laughs from Jeffrey Combs’ voice role if you can handle the bizarre characters that appear and disappear throughout Motivational Growth. The Mold has its own kind of special charm, a goofy villain from a bygone era of b-movies.

Movie ★★★☆☆

Combs has really let himself go @ 14:14

Motivational Growth is a low-budget film clocking in at well under a million dollars, having sat around unreleased for a couple of years. It was shot on lesser Canon DSLR cameras, not what one would call cutting edge technology for HD video. The Blu-ray presentation from niche distributor MVD Visual looks fairly decent for an indie film made on a shoestring budget. The 105-minute main feature is presented at 1080P resolution on a BD-25. The pedestrian AVC video encode averages 21.68 Mbps.

The occasionally washed-out cinematography is framed in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, presumably the intended choice. Its contrast and clarity are better than expected, one benefit of filming everything on a set. Minor banding and faint chroma noise appear but they aren’t particularly distracting from the overall video quality. Aliasing is visible in certain scenes. More noticeable is the oddly smooth flesh. Motivational Growth doesn’t have the immense detail of better productions. The picture is reasonably sharp with moderate definition.

Motivational Growth has cleaner picture quality than many similar DSLR-shot films but pales in comparison to newer features made on RED digital cameras.

Video ★★☆☆☆

One of the best things about this BD is the crisp 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. The score brilliantly uses a variety of retro video game sounds and other electronic beeps. I haven’t heard a musical score like this one help set the tone of a film so much since the Dust Brothers’ excellent work on Fight Club’s score. The fidelity and recording quality are quite impressive considering the modest budget. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and there are some fine examples of channel separation in its mix.

A lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack at 640 kbps and 2.0 Dolby Digital audio options are included for older receivers. Optional English SDH subtitles display in a yellowish, off-white font. The subs lie outside the widescreen framing.

Audio ★★★★☆

I am glad MVD Visual decided to include this slate of special features, even if the featurettes are all in standard definition. The commentary is worth hearing for fans and it’s rare to get a busy actor like Jeffrey Combs on one of them. Director Don Thacker is good at explaining his film in the various featurettes and commentary. The featurettes include participation by most of the critical cast and crew behind this film.

Audio Commentary – A fairly enlightening commentary from cast members Jeffrey Combs and Adrian DiGiovanni with director Don Thacker. Thacker is open about his creative process and delves into the specific technical details about making Motivational Growth. The actors join in on the fun discussion, bouncing anecdotes and memories from the production off the others. This is a lively, entertaining discussion that sounds like friends having a good time.

Inspiring Growth: The Mold (11:21 in SD) – Don Thacker talks about the practical effects behind the Mold. This also features insight from other crew and cast members.

The Fall of Ian: Stunts (06:33 in SD) – Adrian DiGiovanni goes over a couple of stunts his character went through in the film with behind-the-scenes footage.

Grime, Blood & Goo: Building Gore (12:38 in SD) – The bloodier and more disgusting scenes are broken down, featuring most primary cast members and some crew.

The Characters (20:26 in SD) – Don Thacker and cast members discuss how they handled specific characters, from their intentions to who they represent. Thacker adds some interesting context to what each character was supposed to mean in the story.

Teaser (01:51 in SD)

Trailer (01:15 in SD)

Release Trailer (01:37 in SD)

Photo Gallery – Over 70 still photographs of promotional images taken from the set.

In The House of Flies Trailer ( 01:34 in SD)

Extras ★★★★☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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