Color, 2014, 93m.
Directed by Tim Grabham & Jasper Sharp
Starring Heather Barnett, Eduardo Reck Miranda Arrow Video (Blu-ray & DVD) (US/UK RA/B HD/NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
Sci-fi and horror fiction has long exploited the peculiar relationship between mankind and plants, with the latter's living but seemingly immobile existence providing plenty of material for unnerving tales like The Day of the Trffids and The Ruins. Standing as one of the more unorthodox releases from Arrow Video, The Creeping Garden offers a real-life slant on this idea with a feature-length look at slime molds, a slowly creeping, feeding life form outside the constraints of the plant kingdom captured here with nearly psychedelic macro photography and a clutch of scientists talking about its attributes. If that sounds like a dry educational film... well, it isn't.
Researchers and experts from locations like the Royal Botanical Gardens appear as talking heads to give you some insight into the mechanisms by which these molds consume the organisms around them and leave a slimy residue around them, hence the potent name. There's no traditional plot here, but it's a pretty wild visual experience as the screen explodes in a striking array of patterns and textures accompanied by an effective, often deeply disquieting score by experimental composer and sometime Wilco and Sonic Youth collaborator Jim O'Rourke. Along the way it's easy to see parallels to notable genre films, with the photography and score often evoking the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers in particular with some dashes of Phase IV, A Zed and Two Noughts, and The Man Who Fell to Earth popping up as well. It's almost a shame this wasn't made in the '70s when this could have built up a solid fan base among alternative cinema fans (and stoners) alongside titles like Chariots of the Gods? and The Hellstrom Chronicle. Oh, and you even get some trippy kaleidoscopic animation, a cutting-edge robot head, slime mold running in time lapse through a maze, and some eye-popping early scientific films, too.
Arrow Video brings this oddball, fascinating delight to Blu-ray under its Arrow Academy imprint in both the US and UK with a crisp HD presentation that could just as easily serve as a disturbing, beautiful art installation at times; the LPCM English stereo audio also sounds immaculate, with optional English SDH subtitles provided. Extras include a very informative audio commentary with filmmakers Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp (chatting about everything from the inconvenient timing schedules of slime mold movement to the lustrous visual effects forming a kind of natural animation), a Grabham "Biocomputer Music" short (6 mins.) about how Eduardo Miranda and Ed Braund (seen in the main feature) devised a way of generating a musical rapport with slime mold, a longer Bryn Dentinger look at the fungarium holdings at Kew Gardens (3 mins.), and a 2-minute guide to the food likes and dislikes of slime mold with Professor Andrew Adamatzky (2 mins.) with optional subtitles for his thick accent. Three hypnotic Cinema Iloobia short films by Granham -- "Milk" (2009, 1 min.), "Rotten" (2012, 1 mins.), and "Paramusical Ensemble" (2015, 9 mins.) -- are alternately beautiful and really unsettling, with only the last featuring any tangible reality in the traditional sense. "Angela Mele's Animated Slime Molds" (2 mins.) features the work of the biological illustrator seen under the film's end credits without any text interference here for further artistic appreciation. Finally the set concludes with the American trailer and a brief gallery of promotional material. Also included in the first limited edition is the soundtrack CD (which is pretty astonishing all by itself) and liner notes by Sharp.