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STUDIO: Anchor Bay
MSRP: $26.97
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:

- Commentary by writer / director Gabriel Cowan and producer Aimee Clark
- Commentary by actors Mircea Monroe, Brian Krause, Christopher Shand, Nora Kirkpatrick
- Korea Online
- Growth in Development
- Deleted scenes



The Pitch

It’s Slither without the charm.

The Humans

Mircea Monroe, Brian Krause, Christopher Shand, Nora Kirkpatrick
, Richard Riehle, Mackenzie Brooke Smith, Alexi Wasser, Ian Patrick Williams, Robert Pike Daniel

The Nutshell

Twenty years ago a community of scientists on an island off the coast of Maine called Kuddyhunk were using parasitic research in order to improve human evolution.  After some initial success, the experiment went wrong and the parasites, which grow into sluglike creatures, mutated the test subjects, feeding on them from the inside out and turning them into powerful, raving psychotics.
  Now, a survivor of that infestation returns to the island with her friends to sell the compound of her great uncle, who was one of the scientists working on the experiment.  But they soon find themselves right back in the middle of another outbreak by the slugs.



“Don’t move, scumbag!  You’re going to pay for your crimes to the fullest extent of the law!”
“Dude, it’s a slug…”



The Lowdown

Growth is a dumb take-off of such films as Slither, The Faculty and Invasion of the Body Snatchers that, while it had some potential, has nothing new to add to the formula.   It fails to answer a key question or two about its own story, has a character or two literally running around doing nothing, and bases a key weakness of the creatures on something that, when considering the physical makeup of their hosts (i.e. humans), doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.  The film does look good at times, though.  And the slugs, which are totally CGI, do look quite respectable considering the budget.  But those elements ultimately can’t save the film.



Basically the second act…



There are a couple of things to wonder about regarding the set up of Growth.  There was a massive outbreak of the parasites on the island 20 years ago.  This is captured on videotape that was shot during the infestation.  By the end, the things were all over the place, resulting in the death of dozens.  And not just the test subjects, but the island personnel trying to contain the outbreak.  Yet in the present day, the outside world knows nothing of it, and neither, seemingly, does the majority of the population of the tiny island.  So what happened to all the creepy crawlies?  These things multiply like wildfire and aside from carpet bombing the infestation area, I don’t buy that simply burying a plethora of bodies in the woods is going to eliminate the threat.  And how was the incident covered up?  There are indications of a conspiracy of the town leaders and city council president, Larkin Holberman (Riehle), that is by and large never explored.  If the entire island population was in on it, there’s zero indication of that as well, except for a small squad under the command of the Sheriff and Holberman.



Bad as it was, there were a couple of key points that worked in the film’s favor…



Then there’s the questions on the newest outbreak?  It’s eventually answered in the very last shot of the film where the new batch of slugs came from, but that almost comes off like an afterthought.  And the one ultimately responsible for the new slugs explains his reasoning.  But there’s little attempt to show the progression of the slugs’ re-origin.  It’s just an “FYI, the island is infested again” kind of scenario.  The first incident of the slugs emerging is a guy running through the woods being chased by the island authorities.  He gets a little Alien Nation seawater action and that immediate problem is handled.  But then an unrelated little girl is overrun by the things, which burrow in and out of a body.  You never see how she got them; she just has them.  She infects her parents, and it’s not just a couple of the slugs, again, there are many of them.  The lead project doctor, Dr. Macavire (Richards), calls in a female doctor to consult.  For such a secret project responsible for the deaths of many, he has no qualms about laying out the details to her.  Predictably, though, she isn’t around long enough to tell anyone. 



“Mumble quietly once if you want me to save you from this movie.”


“MMPPHH”



As for the main character, Jamie (Monroe), she barely escaped the first infestation, having to be shipped out on a boat during a panicked evacuation as a child.  Yet she seems to have little or no qualms about returning to the island like it’s a weekend camping trip.  Her boyfriend, Marco (Krause) has absolutely zero use in the film.  There’s actually an instance when, just to give him something to do, he has to spend several moments biking down to the dock to try to get cell phone reception.  And that’s his biggest moment.  A planned proposal subplot goes nowhere, and even his most basic use in the film – as slug fodder – goes unrealized as well. 
Richard Riehle is a welcome sight, and tries his best with Holberman, but he’s simply hamstrung by the holes in the story. 



Best Slurm Cola rave ever…



Jamie’s step-brother, Justin, is a much more substantial role, and Christopher Shand is actually pretty good in his portrayal.  But through lax plotting, he spends a good deal of the latter half of the movie either running from something or to something.  Jamie also spends a fruitless few minutes searching for a doctor when Justin first falls ill with the slugs in a segment that could have been handled with a phone call, if anybody had one that worked on the entire island. 
Justin
essentially hijacks the film right out from under Jamie, who spends a
good deal of it meandering down memory lane and worrying more about
bills than she does about the real threat, or even knowing about it. 
Then
the main heavy of the film spends a pointless sequence stalking Jamie’s
friend, Kristin (Kirkpatrick) like a third-rate Fisherman. 
So much effort is spent trying to manufacture drama from ultimately pointless exercises that elements that needed more legitimate exposition, such as the progression of the parasites on the island, went unsatisfied. 



A tribute to Josh Miller…



There’s
also a Korean epilogue that’s tacked on seemingly because the producers
had the opportunity to actually shoot it in South Korea.  Overall, it’s
just aimless and sloppy writing that doom the film which, although by
no means original in concept, could have maybe been some fun. 

The Package

As
mentioned, the film does look pretty good.  But the sound on the disc
is maddeningly low.  I pretty much read the movie rather than listened
to it.  There are two commentaries,
one
by writer / director Gabriel Cowan and producer Aimee Clark,  and one
by actors Mircea Monroe, Brian Krause, Christopher Shand and Nora
Kirkpatrick.  There’s a production featurette, Growth in Development, a Korea Online promo and deleted scenes


4.8 out of 10