Growth (2009)



I’m always down for horror movies shot in my beloved home-state of Massachusetts, but Growth is not the one I would want to highlight. It’s got a decent script, and I’m happy to report it’s hard to tell where the story is going from the first five minutes, but the direction is clunky at best and the CGI is among the worst I’ve seen in recent memory, which is a big problem when 99% of the “horror” in the movie stems from the sight of little parasites crawling in, out, and around people’s skin.

I’m not sure even the best CGI teams in the world could ever create tiny worm/maggot type creatures that look right when crawling around on people, especially when the camera is moving. They can track and rotoscope all they want, but as far as I’m concerned, no computer can correctly assimilate the natural movement of the body or account for imperfections in the camera’s motion. As a result, things that are supposed to be crawling along someone’s body shift unnaturally on their skin, and the same thing happens (to an even more damaging degree) when they begin to burrow in their chest or foot or whatever.

So basically I could never buy into the situation. On paper it might have worked, but when it looks this bad on-screen, I was constantly reminded that it was a movie. Director Gabriel Cowan and his team would have been wise to leave the parasites actions more up to our imagination in these scenes – it’s kind of creepy to see one scurrying about inside someone’s skin once, but it’s not an effect that warrants being shown so many times even if it WAS done right.

Plus, we’ve already covered this ground in The Thaw, which also boasted better actors (Val Kilmer, Aaron Ashmore). But this one does have a few tricks up its sleeve, such as the idea that water will sort of dissolve you if you’re infected (a good example of how to work within your limits – it’s a lot easier to put some “skinned alive” makeup on someone, toss them in the water, and then have their bloody clothes surface). I also like the ballsy approach to kill pretty much everyone in the movie, though it does have a bit of a plot hole (the formula that can create a vaccine is hidden inside a clown doll, which is left with the film’s one survivor – an infant that has no idea how to even sit up on its own let alone inform whoever rescues him that he has the formula).

There are also a number of odd touches throughout the film, such as the rare sight of a male character not being interested in hooking up with the hot blond girl who is practically throwing herself at him. He’s all like “I can’t sleep with someone I just met,” while every dude in the audience is like “What the fuck?” (a deleted scene explains his last girlfriend did online porn so now he’s afraid of catching diseases, a scene that should have been left in considering what happens to him). Also, said hot girl plays accordion in one of those “trying to get over a painful experience’ moments. Usually the character would draw or maybe absent-mindedly strum a guitar, but nope, she goes full-on Weird Al.

Also, Richard Riehle is in it! You gotta love that guy. His character’s a bit confusing, he’s sort of trying to keep everything quiet (bad guy) but he’s also trying to save our heroine (good guy), but his gray area-ness works, because Riehle’s one of those guys that can make anything seem reasonable. It’s a shame he plays one of his final scenes shouting out a bunch of clunky exposition to explain his behavior – why not just have him be upfront right from the start? But he gives the main character a ham, so it evens out.

Another character that was a little baffling was Alexi Wasser, who seems to be teleported in from the film’s sequel or something. She’s part of the story, but still very disconnected from the other characters, and even though she disappears for large chunks at a time, she doesn’t seem to question what’s going on or who exactly it is she’s driving around looking for. She appears in a couple of the deleted scenes, but it still seems like her role was grafted in from elsewhere, and not a natural part of the writing process (or just significantly reduced).

My question was not answered on either of the two audio commentaries. At least, I don’t think – the director’s one was so dry I kept tuning out, and the actor one I just shut off entirely after a half hour or so because they were driving me nuts with their giggling and ignorant-when-they’re-not-the-one-on-screen “observations” lead actress Mircea Monroe apparently didn’t read any scene she wasn’t involved in, even when it involved the history of her own character). Plus their audio wasn’t as well recorded as the other one, so they’re often drowned out by the film itself. Other bonus features include the deleted scenes I mentioned before, and a brief making of that focuses on the (shitty) CGI. Most interesting is “Korea Online”, in which we see the process of directing the film’s epilogue, which was shot in Seoul, from a laptop equipped with Google video chat in Los Angeles. The scene is far too long for such an obvious final gag, but it’s an interesting bonus feature all the same. I wonder how often this sort of thing occurs; I remember Spielberg was overseeing post on Jurassic Park via satellite while in Poland shooting Schindler’s List, but actually directing?

Also, as an end credit man, I want to give props to Cowan and producer Amiee Clark for giving their own props to the guy who did their end titles. Nice for someone in my non-chosen field to get some recognition. And I took notice of the opening titles as well, which had an energy to them that the rest of the film could have used. Basically it was a collage of faked "old footage" and weird visuals and such, depicting the history of the parasitic entity. Oddly, they reminded me a lot of the "Web of Intrigue" clips in from the game Prototype, which is just finished today despite it being a year old. Pretty good game, I must say - open world/superhero type of thing, lot of side missions and collectibles for OCD sufferers/Achievement whores like me. Recommended!

What say you?


  1. "Interestingly, it’s a 2nd unit shot so it’s not Cowan"

    Did this reviewer even watch the special features??? Cowan directed this whole sequence - location scouted and cast - from his home in Los Angeles - completely innovative. I have no idea why this reviewer would say it wasn't Cowan ... watch the special feature on it. Super Cool!!!

  2. Didn't he say he was the 2nd unit director? My bad.


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