Growth (Gabriel Cowan, 2010)
Growth is one of those movies about which a whole lot of people are unloading a whole lot of calumny over on the IMDB boards. I’ve got an hypothesis about that (don’t I always?). A lot of the things folks are saying—and I add, even before we get into it, that most of them are accurate—are the kinds of things that people say about movies that inspire ennui, not ire; it’s boring, it’s got plotholes you can drive a truck through, the acting is awful (that one I will dispute, at least in part, later on), the script is worse, etc. Nothing you haven’t seen in hundreds of other DTV low-budget special effects extravaganzas. I think the reason that one has drawn so much hatred is that somewhere under the surface of this movie is a really, really good—perhaps great—movie. I think people are reacting to that, rather than the film we got. And that is a valid approach to criticizing the movie. But on the other hand, that also tends to give short shrift where it is, perhaps, undeserved; if you can separate what could have been from what is and overlook a few shortcomings that really are as bad as people make them out to be, this is actually not an awful way to kill ninety minutes if you’re a fan of creepy-crawly horror.
Plot: researchers in a secret genetic lab on a remote island make a breakthrough in 1989, but it ends up getting loose and causing a massacre. Fast-forward twenty years. Jamie Ackerman (Magic Mike‘s Mircea Monroe), who escaped the terror of that night, and a handful of her friends return to the sparsely-populated island to sell her family’s property. But something feels off. Larkin (Office Space‘s Richard Riehle), the mayor, warns her away almost as soon as she sets foot on the island, and the rest of the islanders look at her as if they haven’t eaten in weeks and she’s a steak. She and her crew, poking around the remains of her father’s old laboratory, uncover evidence that whatever he discovered might not have been completely eradicated. Jamie realizes that her real estate adventure may be a tougher sell than she realized.
Okay, yes, this movie is dumb. But if you’re picking apart the science in a horror movie, I submit that perhaps you’re thinking about it a little too hard. This isn’t a movie about science, it’s a movie about nasty special effects. Think of it as Slugs for the serial-killer generation. That doesn’t totally redeem it, of course—though one wonders how much it would if Cowan had had the kind of budget that made Alien vs. Predator into one of the best, and yet stupidest, turn-your-brain-off-and-have-fun movies of the past decade—but it’s enough to get some enjoyment out of what you’re seeing. If you want a creepy-crawly movie, and everything else in your collection you’ve seen too many times, check this out. Go into it with no expectations and you’ll have some fun with it. **