Ah, the glorious 1980's! The home video market exploded - thanks in large part to the Grindhouse and B-movie exploitation of the mid-to-late 1970's - and audiences were won over with buckets and buckets of blood. Horror schlock - affordably produced and backed with respectable storytelling - enjoyed a renaissance, and fans flocked to their local VHS rental outfits for whatever nuggets of joy they could find. These wonderful films produced a subsequent generation of film fans as well as inseminated a new wave of home-grown filmmakers, and filmdom was never the same again.
Once again, I find you serving as an inspiration for yet another B movie. This one is called MOLD, and I'm thrilled to be in a position to offer a few humble words of reflection on such a curious flick.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of characters and plot. If you're the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I'd encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you're entirely accepting of a few modest hints at `things to come,' then read on ...)
Welcome to 1984, the home of Reagan Republicans, bad mustaches, and mad science. Deep in the Arizona desert, a super-secret U.S. government project hopes to fight back against those pesky Columbian drug cartels by engineering a strain of (you guessed it) mold specifically fabricated to turn coca fields to waste. As is often the problem with super-secret U.S. government projects, this one goes awry, as this mold also apparently feeds on moist human flesh. As is often the case with super-secret U.S. government projects, this one just can't be contained to its hermetically sealed lab, leaving a group of unsuspecting scientists, military men, and politicians trapped in the facility, racing against time to save themselves before this strain finds its own way out!
Will science never learn?
By definition, MOLD is a solid B movie. Whether intended or not, it's chocked full of hammy acting, almost absurd situations, and zany fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants logic. Methinks all of that is deliberate - quite probably as is using the name Edison Carter for a political talking head on a computer screen (shades of MAX HEADROOM) - and scribes Dave Fogerson and Neil Meschino intended as much mockery as they did an homage to the films that populated their youth. Unfortunately, it's also heavily sprinkled with some bad sound editing and some obvious microphone issues that serve more distraction than they should; once it was `in the can,' as they say, some of that should've been `fixed in post,' as they say. It wasn't, and MOLD suffers unnecessarily as a consequence.
Still, there's enough obvious affection for storytelling at work here that I, as a reviewer, am comfortable dismissing it but not entirely forgiving it.
To their credit, Fogerson and Meschino have tapped every possible vein when it comes to recapturing the mayhem of 80's grindhouse. There are more references to Ronald Reagan than at the Republican Party Headquarters. There are plenty of allusions to science, the military, and social quirks of the time. Heck, they even managed to convince Ardis Campbell - the fetching young lady who played Dr. Julia Young - to strip down to her skivvies and parade around in bra & panties through sets painted over with green muck as an obligatory shout-out to exploitation gems of the era ... but next time, guys? Let's not save that magic all the way into the last reel, shall we? Roger Corman had a rule - once every seven-to-ten minutes, you gotta show some skin, or you'll lose the foreign investors. Next time, let's have Ms. Campbell or any other scream queen pony up some assets in each reel.
This is `art,' after all.
MOLD is produced by Mentally Ill Films. DVD distribution is being handled through Wild Eye Releasing. As for the technical specifications ... ugh. Look, MOLD was clearly shot with little or not budget, and I'll be the first to admit that - despite the lack of any serious funding - the film nuts, nerds, and knuckleheads who put this together deserve another shot at greatness or, at least, mediocrity. So as for those technical specifications? Erm. Well, it looks and sounds about as well as some independent features I've had the chance to enjoy (or not), but, seriously, this has to be one of the worst sound mixes produced for a disc that I've ever heard. It's easy to dismiss some of it as `just the breaks,' but I had to very regularly keep adjusting the volume in order to hear basic dialogue. That's never a good thing, people. Lastly, the disc does come with a few special features - there's a behind-the-scenes short, theatrical trailers, and a director's commentary for those who might be interested in exploring this lunacy a bit more in-depth (not that there's anything wrong with it).
Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that, per the advertising materials provided to me with the release, MOLD was recognized as the `Best Feature' for the Nevermore Film Festival as well as garnering a `Best Director' nod at the Terror Film Festival. Congratulations and salutations all around!
RECOMMENDED. Sometimes the best thing one can say about a B movie is that if the creative crew and cast had been given a few more dollars to work with then they may've had a winner on their hands. Maybe MOLD wouldn't have worked as a big budget blockbuster, but if you're looking for something in the B movie range - part Grindhouse, part horror & sci-fi schlock - then you could do a lot worse than discovering this modest little indie with more heart & soul than the last Michael Bay f@rtknocker, more red & green slime than you'd want to see on Nickelodeon, and more Community Theatre acting than should be captured in a single film. Despite its weaknesses (and, yes, there are plenty), MOLD still entertained this child of `80's film for its 104 minutes, and that's no easy task.
In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Wild Eye Releasing provided me with an advance DVD copy of MOLD by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.