A low-budget horror thriller with a great premise, writer/director Gabriel Cowan's GROWTH (2009) doesn't quite live up to its potential.
Twenty years ago, a group of scientists on Kuttyhunk Island experimented in human improvement by infecting subjects with parasites that would increase strength and mental abilities. Unfortunately, the experiment went horribly wrong, and almost 3/4 of the island's population died in the outbreak. Jaime (Mircea Munroe, HOUSE OF THE DEAD 2) was a child then, and escaped the outbreak. Now, she's returned to the island with her best friend, boyfriend and step-brother to sell the family home... just as a new, even more deadly parasitic outbreak threatens the island's inhabitants and her friends.
Shot on a reported budget of only $300,000, GROWTH is visually impressive, with slick, professional HD videography that looks very film-like. Make-up gore effects are nicely designed and executed, and the CGI parasites are particularly effective; not only are they convincingly rendered, but they're animated in a manner that imbues the little worms with some personality (for lack of a better word).
The cast is good, with familiar character actor Richard Riehle (OFFICE SPACE) giving a particularly strong performance, and pretty Mircea Munroe is quite effective in the lead.
Where the film falls short is in the direction, which seems rather listless at times, and in the script, which has some good ideas, but frequently has characters acting in inexplicable ways. I get that Cowan's going for a character-driven, science fiction tone rather than outright horror, but the 90 minute running time seems far longer, and not in a good way.
The Anchor Bay DVD sports a crystal sharp 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and digital 5.0 audio. Supplemental features include an audio commentary by Cowan and producer Amiee Clark, a separate cast commentary, a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes that demonstrate how the filmmakers were able to make their $300,000 feature look far more expensive, deleted scenes and the film's trailer.
GROWTH is a middling sci-fi horror flick, nicely shot and well-acted but not particularly memorable. However, in terms of technical quality, it is far superior to most other genre features with similar budgets, and one wishes that the material was stronger.