Growth (2009)

The film begins with the shock statement – “1 in 4 Americans have a parasite. Many are deadly” – and this is where the shocks, surprise and anything resembling originality ends. Growth is a simple film that, despite a few good performances and a couple of nice scenes, is so dipped in its own self-importance that it’s completely blind to its faults. Silly and clichéd and shoddily made, Growth is pointless.

The people of Cuttyhunk Island have a secret. In 1989 an experiment in forced evolution went horribly wrong and some islanders were brutally killed by parasites. This outbreak of genetically altered parasitic creatures was contained and the disaster was kept hidden in the hope no one would ever discover it. Twenty years later and the parasites are back and the island’s dark secret is about to be blown out of hiding in a spectacularly bloody way.

The beginning of Growth shows a lot of promise. It starts with a man being chased by local police into the sea, where he promptly melts. From here we have a snap-shot of old archive footage playing behind the opening credits, which shows the horrific parasite outbreak quickly and unobtrusively, with one reporter asking the doom-laden question “If they can produce this, what else are they capable of?”

We’re transported to present day, and one of the surviving children, now grown up and with convenient amnesia, comes to the island to sell inherited property left by her late father, who happened to be the lead scientist on the project. The islanders are desperate to keep their secrets hidden from the newcomers, but as the death toll climbs and Jamie’s memory begins to recover (in ridiculously helpful flashbacks), they realise they need Jamie’s help to stop whatever is spreading this new wave of parasitic monsters.

Growth has a reasonable idea dunked into a cliché filled script that ticks every unoriginality box available to it. Genetic experiment on a island, mad scientists presumed dead, vignettes of parasites attacking people we’ve never heard of, locals hating outsiders, terrible CGI and a tendency to vomit it’s misplaced self-importance at the screen.

Initially the dialogue and characters are sweet and likable, and it feels very natural until the screaming, theory-making idiocy begins and it all goes horribly downhill. There are some decent moments throughout, and some visually interesting bits. As the story moves along there are the occasional sparks of genius, like a fight scene in the woods where someone has their arm ripped off and they’re subsequently hit in the face with it.

However, for every piece of ingenuity there are at least five pieces of utter idiocy. At one point a woman shoots a parasite-infected man in the chest with a shotgun. He barely registers the assault, so the woman drops the shotgun and runs at him with her fists. Yep. So senseless are moments like this, and there are a lot in Growth, any sense of reality is loaded into a rocket and blasted into space.

The main pull of Growth is supposed to be the parasites, which are poor CGI sub-Slither monsters that seem almost sentient and have really annoying noises circ. Eight Legged Freaks’ spiders. The parasites come in different forms, clearly depending on what our writer / director Gabriel Cowan decided was the most interesting at the time. Some just eat through people’s skin, while others possess people and give them extra-sensory perception and strength, presumably our forced evolution we’ve been promised. It’s idiotic scientific bibble-babble fiction at its poorly researched best.

Growth is an idiot wearing a labcoat. It pretends to know what it’s doing, but is incredibly incompetent at achieving anything decent. There are moments of quality and moments of the grotesque, but these are heavily outweighed by the moments of the ridiculous, of the trite, of the senseless and of the mind-batteringly dumb. It is clichéd, unoriginal and frustrating. Avoid Growth like you avoid a deadly parasite crawling into your face.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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