Every now and then, we see a film that seems to have the right intentions at heart and yet because of the questionable marketability of its main premise, the director of the film has to settle for something less. Just what happens when a film has a larger ambition than what its budget allows it to do? Well, I think writer/director Gabriel Cowan’s low-budget horror film “Growth” is a very good example. The film has a very modest budget and its screenplay obviously struggles to sidestep the conventions of a creature feature and do something different and yet familiar. It is fairly visible that the script had suffered several changes and re-writes to accommodate its modest budget.
20 years ago, a famed scientist and his subordinates had found a way to make artificial pearls that promises great fortune. They had also found a way to speed human evolution through the use of genetically engineered parasites. These parasites give their hosts enhanced strength and speed that even accelerates the healing processes of the human body. The procedure however, causes those experimented on to slowly lose their sanity and make them very violent. Now a survivor of the experiment, Jamie Akerman (Mircea Monroe) had returned to claim her stake in a patch of land in the island. But unfortunately, the secrets of the island had resurfaced again and Jamie is in for something more than she had bargained for.
“Growth” appears to be quite different from the norm. It has the B-movie sensibilities of a Roger Corman flick and it does have the eerie themes of a David Cronenberg affair. I am not exactly sure what writer/director Gabriel Cowan’s intentions are when he made this film. It is a standard bug flick and Cowan does try to take full advantage of its premise. I just couldn’t put a finger on whether the film wanted to be clever, smart and funny, or if it wanted to deliver some horrific shock value to the experience. Not sure, but I felt that the tone and the mood of the film was never fully established, it looked like a cheesy attempt for a scy fy feature but in some areas, (such as the opening flashback scenes) I thought it was going to be a nice injection of human error and horror. Clearly the film has been hampered by its low budget with a lot of its devices feeling abandoned.
I guess the film took a nosedive when it started introducing its characters which were stereotypical. There would be no doubt just who would be cannon fodder in the script. What makes it worst is that the connections between the lead character, the island and the creatures weren’t fully established; it makes everything feel so cheap. Script alterations were very obvious, as one plot device was introduced (hooded creature) and the changes to this idea wasn’t even explained. There are a lot of things that made the experience quite incoherent; the appearance of the black hooded island dwellers and what was their purpose? Plot devices were pitched into the premise and then they were quickly written out. It also doesn’t help much when the acting was wooden for the most part. None of the performers made an impact in the film.
Well, the film does have some decent CGI effects in some parts. There were quite a few creepy crawlers that gave a squeamish feel since the parasites penetrate its victim through the eyes, foot, and other delicate areas of the human body but the execution was real uneven; some were better than others while most (especially near the end of the film) looked real fake. The effects/incubation periods of the parasite invasion had a lot of potential—enhanced strength, speed (displayed through the film) and of course, because of the established formulas of B-movies…enhanced sexual desire. The film has some scenes of nudity but none would turn off viewers. I guess the direction was relying on the display of blood and gore to carry it through; but even that was uneven, as the film mostly relied on cheap looking CGI. (There were some that used old-fashioned effects but I am not sure what brought about the change in the artistic area).
“Growth” is a prime example of an ambitious idea that fell a lot short because of its budget that make have caused huge alterations to its script that rendered the film convoluted and quite frankly a little clumsy. I guess the film wanted to be a little more ‘artsy’ when it came to storytelling but in the end it tried to resort to violence and gore to carry it through. The pieces of the puzzle just didn’t fit as we see the true motivations behind the experiment and in the end the film became a clichéd mess (there was an idea of a cure but it wasn’t properly developed in the script). The constant shifts in mood and tone sure didn’t help the wooden acting.
But I suppose there is enough schlock and B-movie charm that it may warrant a rental. The film wasn’t horrendous enough for me to say that it is a ‘skipper’ but it sure wasn’t suspenseful or interesting enough to add to your collection of cult movies. “Growth” may be worth a look for horror fans but be sure to temper your expectations. It is nothing good but it isn’t anything bad either.
RENTAL [2 Out of 5 Stars]
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Despite its modest budget, Growths producers were able to secure over 150 3D CGI shots, underwater shots, aerial shots, and an entire sequence shot in Seoul, South Korea. They also filmed on the RED ONE 4K camera which shoots at four times high definition resolution, and shot the film almost entirely on location in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
In 1989 on Kuttyhunk island, acclaimed scientist Mason Lane used microscopic parasites to advance human evolution. The experiment resulted in stronger, smarter, healthier humans, but something went wrong, and three quarters of the island's residents perished. Twenty years later, Jamie Akerman (Mircea Monroe), who fled the original outbreak, inherits the island to discover a new, more dangerous outbreak has just emerged.