Growth
Starz / Anchor Bay // Unrated // $26.97 // September 7, 2010
Review by Bill Gibron | posted September 17, 2010
M O V I E
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A U D I O
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
The Product:
What happens when you have a great idea but limited funds to realize it? What do you do when you want to make a slimy monster movie about intelligent parasites taking over the world (or in this particular case, a small island community) but can't muster up a truly professional production budget or a polished cast? Well, if you are indie horror filmmaker Gabriel Cowan, you assemble the best group of actors you can (including b-movie luminaries like Ian Patrick Williams and TV names like Brian Krause), you whip out the CG critters, and hope that your unique take on the genre gets you over the numerous categorical hurdles. That's exactly what happens with Growth. A weird story about human DNA manipulation turns into a slightly nasty Night of the Living Under the Skin Bug Burrowers. Cowan does what he can with the incredibly goofy elements bouncing around here, but for the most part, the effort is not worth the results.

The Plot:
When famed scientist Mason Lane makes a startling discovery about humans and parasites, it leads to the development of a superbeing - a person with purified and specialized DNA. During a press briefing at his island laboratory announcing his discovery, his carefully crafted subjects go insane, leading to a truly fatal ending. Now, several years later, the late man's niece is coming back to the small atoll and its resident community to clean up the property and put it on the market. Naturally, she brings along her best buddy, her boyfriend, and a physically ailing pal. Upon arriving, everyone is glad to see her. They want her to sell and get out. But when she starts having memories of her time with Lane, as well as her late lamented mother, she has second thoughts. Of course, while contemplating her next step, her associates fall under the influence of the island's creepy citizenry - masses of infecting parasites, capable of taking over a person and turning them into a murderous mess.

The DVD:
Growth is one weird mamma jamma. It's a combination of David Cronenberg and David Letterman. One moment it has computer generated slugs crawling in and out of its human hosts, the next the cast is acting like they're part of a SyFy special on cheeseball terror. This is a movie that wants to have it both ways, that wants to be frightening and funny, clever and yet completely immersed in the silly schlock elements of the bad bug epic. A small amount of props goes to director Gabriel Cowan. He does milk this middling material for all it's worth, especially during the many flashbacks when we see how this tiny town turned into Worm Capital USA! But when we deal with the present, with the quartet of victim fodder flung onto the property like so much barbed wire, the entire film falls apart. We don't care about our lead, about her connection to the creatures, or the various intertwining relationships between her hangers-on. By the time they are infested with squiggle wiggles, we simply hope some gore will ease the pain.

It doesn't. Growth has some decent special effects. We are slightly unnerved by the sight of these "things" digging into people's flesh, and the infected have a funny way of showing everyone the most inappropriate places (eyes, other regions) where these leeches are lounging. But it's all done with high tech smoke and mirrors, faked and fully obvious to all who see it. Even Cowan fails to take full advantage of the concept, reducing his main monster to a guy with a parasite headpiece (ooooooo - scary!). Then there are things that don't make sense, like the cultists running around in robes and ridiculous white face, or the townies who just want our heroine out. They feel like leftovers from a previous draft of the script, reinserted when it was discovered the F/X sequences would be severely truncated. Along with the occasional laugh out loud lapses in logic, Growth feels very disjointed and highly disorganized.

But for some weird ephemeral reason, it kind of almost sort of works...maybe. You don't really mind the wooden performances, the constant shifts in tone, the Commodore 64 gross out graphics, or the "what's that?" plot points. Instead, you start to go with the limited blood flow, following Cowan as he piles on the weirdness with wild abandon. Eventually, the pieces of the perplexing puzzle fall haphazardly into place - again, more or less. We realize the original aim of the experiments, see Lane as a loose cannon given enough research fodder to shoot himself, and then marvel at how the movie manipulates his reality. Naturally, toward the end, there's a baby to save, a chance to stop this scourge once and for all, and a tacky twist right out of The Horror of Party Beach and about a ba-gillion other '50s fright flicks. Growth definitely earns points for trying. It also earns a dung heap of demerits for what it can never accomplish.

The Video:
As per this critic's policy, Screener copies of DVDs are not awarded points for video or audio. If Anchor Bay does send a final product version of Growth to the site, this paragraph will be updated accordingly.

The Audio:
As per this critic's policy, Screener copies of DVDs are not awarded points for video or audio. If Anchor Bay does send a final product version of Growth to the site, this paragraph will be updated accordingly.

The Extras:
This Screener copy of Growth only contained the movie. No bonus features. If Anchor Bay does send a final product version of Growth to the site, this paragraph will be updated accordingly.

Final Thoughts:
The dilemma with something like Growth is that one man's monster madness is another bloke's bonkers schlock fest. Director Cowan tries to have it both ways, with incredibly mixed results. While it would be easy to dismiss this movie outright, there is just enough here to warrant the attention of a cynical and stuck for something new to experience fear geek. Therefore, a rating of Rent It will be offered. It's not necessarily so bad it deserves to be skipped, but it's barely good enough to be recommended. In fact, it's safe to say that Growth is one of the best examples of bad moviemaking made slightly more tolerable by its own warped worldview ever. Again, it's not so lame it's likeable. More like, so surreal you simply surrender to it.



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