You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘The Creeping Garden’

An unlikely documentary delight about the weird life of slime molds.

Mark Pragnell, Heather Barnett, Bryn Dentinger, Tim Boon, Andrew Adamatsky, Klaus-Peter Zauner, Jeff Jones, Ella Gale, Eduardo Reck Miranda.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3913550/

The “Most Appealing Movie With the Least Appealing Subject” prize on the festival circuit in recent months has surely been owned by “The Creeping Garden,” an improbably delightful documentary about — deep breath now — slime molds. Packaged to recall 1970s sci-fi classics (like “Phase IV” and the ’78 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”), good-humored but not campy in its regard of some genuinely fascinating research, and full of trippy visuals, this science-fair bonanza would have been a midnight staple in the era of “The Hellstrom Chronicles.” Today, Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp’s feature will have to build its cult following primarily via download sales, though it certainly rewards bigscreen exposure. Following several festival dates and a brief U.K. theatrical run last year, it’s slotted to open at New York’s Film Forum in the fall.

Thriving mostly out of sight under rotting logs and other places where moisture and bacteria are plentiful, slime molds were long classified as fungi, and briefly as an animal form — because unlike most plant life, they not only grow but can move. (In laboratory settings they can “run” a petri-dish maze to get to a food source.) In fact, they are neither, but rather a weird and wonderful if little-studied part of Mother Nature. More than a thousand varieties have been recorded to date, assuming wildly different forms, though the U.K. types we see here are mostly bright yellow in color. They can live for decades, can “hibernate” in adverse circumstances, and have no brain, yet possess a kind of primitive intelligence that is capable of making decisions and surviving simple problems.

The directors approach their oddball subject from a number of different angles. Neglected by establishment scientists, slime molds have benefited from the curiosity of amateur enthusiasts, with dedicated forest roamer Mark Pragnell an unpretentious protagonist to whom the pic frequently returns. We also spend time with visual artist Heather Barnett, computer scientist Ella Gale, composer Eduardo Reck Miranda and others, all of whom have made unique uses of slime molds in their own creative research. It’s quite intriguing to hear Miranda “jamming” at the piano with musical sounds triggered by electrodes registering the emotional responses of slime molds to stimulate — though by this late point, the episodic film has slightly overstayed its welcome.

Nonetheless, “The Creeping Garden” is much more entertaining than one could reasonably expect. The handsome widescreen presentation is highlighted by plenty of striking images in which molds’ movement (usually 1/20 of an inch per hour) is sped up through time-lapse photography. The drolly sci-fi tenor is furthered by a soundtrack of retro electronica, and onscreen titles styled after 1970s “futuristic” quasi-computerized typefaces.

Film Review: 'The Creeping Garden'

Reviewed at Hot Docs Film Festival (Nightvision), Toronto, April 25, 2015. (Also in 2014 Fantasia Film Festival.) Running time: 81 MIN.

Production: (Documentary — U.K.) A Ryan Bruce Levey Film Distribution and Cinema Iloobia (in North America) release of a Cinema Iloobia and Global Flaneur production. (International sales: Cinema Iloobia, London.) Produced by Tim Grabham, Jasper Sharp.

Crew: Directed by Tim Grabham, Jasper Sharp. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Grabham, Clare Richards; editor, Grabham; music, Jim O’Rourke, Woob; 3D spore animation, Cinema Iloobia; sound, Grabham, Paul Pascoe.

With: Mark Pragnell, Heather Barnett, Bryn Dentinger, Tim Boon, Andrew Adamatsky, Klaus-Peter Zauner, Jeff Jones, Ella Gale, Eduardo Reck Miranda.

More Film

  • First-Look Image Revealed for ‘Monday,’ Starring

    First-Look Image Revealed for ‘Monday,’ Starring ‘Captain America’s’ Sebastian Stan

    The first-look image from Greek director Argyris Papadimitropoulos’ “Monday,” starring Sebastian Stan – best known for “I, Tonya” and the “Captain America” movies – and “Colette’s” Denise Gough, has been released. Protagonist Pictures will launch international sales on the pic in Berlin. “Monday” follows the story of Mickey (Stan) and Chloe (Gough), two Americans in [...]

  • The Wedding

    Film Review: 'The Wedding'

    Two considerations need to exist side by side when discussing “The Wedding,” the debut feature of Egyptian-American multihyphenate Sam Abbas. One involves the film itself, a dull slice of Lower Manhattan mumblecore about a heterosexual New York couple fitfully planning their wedding until she discovers his gay dalliance. The other, getting the lion’s share of [...]

  • The Best Gifts For Film Buffs

    Holiday Gift Guide: The Best Gifts For Film Buffs

    Whether you know a film buff who needs to upgrade their collection, or you just want to upgrade your movie nights at home, here are eight gifts that will cast your favorite flicks in a whole new light. 1. Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema: The Criterion Collection More Reviews Film Review: 'The Wedding' Film Review: 'Malila: The [...]

  • Ansel Elgort The Great High School

    Film News Roundup: Ansel Elgort to Star in 'The Great High School Imposter'

    In today’s film news roundup, Ansel Elgort is going to high school, “Rockaway” gets a release, and “Suspiria” producer Bradley Fischer is honored. CASTING More Reviews Film Review: 'The Wedding' Film Review: 'Malila: The Farewell Flower' Ansel Elgort has come aboard to star in the drama “The Great High School Imposter” for Participant Media and [...]

  • Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder

    Oscars: Film Academy Narrows the List of Contenders in Nine Categories

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced shortlists of semi-finalists in nine separate categories. From here, the organization’s separate respective branches will vote to determine nominees, which will be announced along with all other Oscar categories next month. This year marks the first year since 1979 that shortlists have been revealed in [...]

  • Watch Skylar Grey Reenact 'Aquaman' Kiss

    Watch Skylar Grey Reenact 'Aquaman' Kiss Scene With Fiance

    The melody from “Everything I Need,” the song Skylar Grey penned for “Aquaman” is used in the scene — spoiler alert — in which the titular hero (Jason Momoa) and Mera (Amber Heard) kiss while an epic battle rages on around them. Grey and her fiance Elliott Taylor reenacted the kiss in a somewhat similar [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content