There are any number of ways to commit a cinematic fumbling — to fritter away a decent concept or creepy set-up or what have you — but one of the more common, at least in the direct-to-video genre realm, is to not trust your story, writing and characters, but instead double down on a reliance on special effects, which too often come across as chintzy when delivered on a budget-level basis. Such is the case with Growth, which features absolutely great DVD cover art and an effective trailer to boot, but, alas, doesn’t deliver the squirmy horror goods.
Written and directed by Gabriel Cowan (Breathing Room), Growth opens in 1989, when a breakthrough in advanced parasitic research on remote Kuttyhunk Island gives scientists a jump in human evolution, endowing subjects with heightened physical and mental strength. Naturally, though, the experiment goes horribly wrong, producing a lethal parasite that kills off three-quarters of the island’s population. Cut to 20 years later, when Jamie Akerman (Mircea Monroe), who lost her mother in the outbreak, returns with her boyfriend Marco (Sleepwalkers‘ Brian Krause), step-brother Justin (Christopher Shand) and best friend Kristin (Nora Kirkpatrick) to sell the family property. There, they uncover details about Jamie’s disturbing past, and horrifying secrets long suppressed by the town’s leader, Larkin (Office Space‘s Richard Riehle). Just when the past seems to be finally buried, a slithering new strain of parasite emerges, and threatens the island and its visitors once again.
An intriguing set-up and some effectively delineated backstory put Growth in a good spot to wring elemental dread out of the inherently human fear of things getting under our skin, and/or otherwise invading unintended orifices (as Star Trek II aptly demonstrated, with those earwigs). Cowan doesn’t fully trust the material, though, and Growth thusly pivots from a movie with the potential to unnerve to a shambling film of goosing provocation and little insight. Without the budget to pull off big-level special effects, the narrative leans on them to an unfulfilling degree.
Growth comes to DVD housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover with raised lettering and artwork. It’s presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with an English language Dolby digital 5.1 audio track and optional English SDH subtitles. Its package of ample bonus material is anchored by a feature-length audio commentary track from Cowan and fellow producer Amiee [sic] Clark, as well as a separate audio commentary track with actors Monroe, Krause, Shand and Kirkpatrick. There is a nice little behind-the0scenes featurette built around interviews with cast and crew, and there’s a separate featurette look at how Cowan — via online camera, from Los Angeles — directed one scene shot in South Korea. A clutch of deleted scenes and the movie’s trailer round out bonus materials. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C- (Movie) B+ (Disc)