October Horrorshow: Growth

The October Horrorshow is upon us once again, when Missile Test devotes the entire month of October to watching and reviewing horror films. The good, the bad, and the putrid are all represented. And, oh boy. This movie is a doozy, a humdinger, a lulu.

Growth, a 2009 film written and directed by Gabriel Cowan, is another entry in the SCREWED sub-genre of horror films. That is, Small Cast, Reclusive Environment, Where Everyone (almost) Dies. S-C-R-E-W-E-D.

Screwed films are great for the filmmaker operating on a tight budget. The cast is small, which keeps pay down, the plot has been done so many times that writing a script is little more than a game of Mad Libs, and no one, anywhere, anymore, has high expectations for this garbage. Even so, sometimes a new effort comes along that is bad enough to make a person wish that this type of film would crawl away into the dark corners of cinematic history, never to emerge again.

Growth tells the story of three young twenty-somethings, and a cradle robbing trout, who wind up on the island of Kunnyhunk, off the coast of somewhere, looking to claim an inheritance. BUT, twenty years ago, at the tail end of the 1980s, the island was the site of a science experiment gone awry, an effort to harness the power of parasites to create a race of supermen. The engineered parasites, however, turned on their host humans, and an outbreak almost doomed the entire island. This horrible occurrence is not only explained, but shown to the viewer as part of the opening credit sequence. Then, predictably, this plot repeats itself at a much slower and more incoherent pace.

I feel a need to spend a little more time on this sequence, mostly because it was more interesting than the rest of this dog.

The credit sequence was meant to give background to the story about to unfold onscreen, but it also played like a recap, as if Growth were a sequel to some earlier film, and needed to pad the running time, à la films from the Friday the 13th series. Despite this, it needs to be asked: Why not make this sequence the movie? Not that it would have been any better, fleshed out into feature length, but the ideas which played during the credits were better than the schlock that ended up being placed in the main body of Growth. And, this sequence didn’t need its own cheap intro to explain why there were little CGI slugs slithering around an island burrowing themselves into people and causing them to do bad things to each other. Any film that requires such extensive background to explain the plot would do well to simplify things and make that background the movie.

So, there’s slugs, there’s infected people with superhuman strength, and saltwater kills everything bad. Convenient since the movie takes place on an island. The CGI effects are cheap television quality. The other effects are inept — real backyard filmmaker stuff. The budget was reportedly somewhere around 300k, so all that can be forgiven. This one’s for hardcore horror fans only. Alien: Resurrection may be bad, but I’d watch it ten more times before I’d watch another minute of Growth.

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