Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Nevermore Flashback: Mold! (2009)


With Nevermore 2012 now a week and a half away, I've decided to post some reviews of films that I saw there last year. These include a mix of low-budget features, revivals, and short films as well as some films which have since gotten wider releases. These reviews were originally posted on my (now defunct) personal blog. Stay tuned for reviews and info from this year's fest later on in February. In the meantime, enjoy!

I watch low-budget independent films like I watch minor league sports. Never mind that I don't watch sports - I like the analogy. What I mean is that I don’t go in expecting everything to be perfectly refined or completely polished, and that's okay. The unpredictability adds an extra layer of excitement. While there's a vast sea of crap out there, there's also some hidden talent waiting to be found. Every once in a while when things really succeed, it’s just that much cooler. Mold! is the first feature-length film from Neil Meschino, and it's another piece of evidence that low-budget splatter can be way more fun than anything a slickly produced feature has to offer.

Mold! works within the tried-and-true (and cost-effective) scenario of locking a group of people in a building and introducing an unseen menace to prey on them. Here, the setting is a government-run laboratory, the players are a mix of scientists and politicians, and the monster is a new strain of fast-growing, ultra-lethal, weapons-grade green mold. If there's one thing I've learned from working with real science, it's that anything experimental eventually breaks. Not that theoretical work doesn't break, but I'm safe from explosions or infection if my code crashes. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the deadly mold's containment system. When it breaks and infects the privates of a visiting congressman, you know that things are only going to go from bad to worse. Thankfully for the world (but not so much for those in the lab), there's a security system in place that locks down the building, and as the survivors meet their increasingly gruesome demises one by one, they've got to struggle with the idea that they may not make it out in the end.

A few things really shine in this film. The practical effects are great, and as the mold spreads, the deaths get more and more outrageous. The splatter is a lot of fun in this film, and helps it maintain momentum in what would otherwise be a fairly straightforward "oh no, we're trapped in a building" movie. While CGI is fine in a pinch and usually pretty cost-effective, but I'm glad it didn't end up being a crutch here. In the end, nothing provokes a visceral reaction like seeing someone spew a mouthful of green food-colored corn syrup and latex chunks across a room. Meschino (who was present at the screening) described how the lack of heat in the building where they filmed forced some actors to be covered in cold slime, often wearing nothing more than their drenched undergarments. Their discomfort can't have hurt their performances - if anything it gives their frustrated screaming an extra degree of credibility. There are a few aesthetic nods to low-budget gore films from the eighties that fit in nicely as well. The most prominent are the use of stock footage and a cheap synth-laden soundtrack. All of these things give the film a reckless sort of feel that works in its favor. I get the same feel from a lot of older low-budget horror (Basket Case and Street Trash are the first favorites that come to mind), where the constraints demanded creativity in order to achieve any degree of success.

That said, some aspects still feel amatuerish. The pacing drags from time to time, especially in between kills. These segments would normally be a great time to ramp up the suspense, but they're undercut by the fact that the dialogue frequently falters and the actors can't always pull off their material seriously. While the hamming can be entertaining, it grows a little thin. For the most part, these missteps can be overlooked in favor of the sheer fun that this film wants you to have.

As a whole, Mold! is an entertaining movie that accomplishes what it sets out to do: gross you out and make you laugh. It's willing to be outrageous in order to stand out from the crowd and doesn’t let a lack of money or resources get in its way. I recommend this one, and look forward to seeing where Meschino takes it from here. (Probably toward a sequel if the ending is to be believed.)

You can find out more about the film (or watch it online, for a fee) at http://www.moldthemovie.com/. Also worth noting is that Mold! won the audience award for best feature at Nevermore.

7/10 = A low-budget feature that's a step ahead of the pack.

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