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John’s Horror Corner: Growth (2010), a stupid movie about parasitic worm egg oyster pearls that give people powers

October 27, 2013

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MY CALL
:  Stupid, stupid, stupid. Bioengineered oysters make special pearls that are worm eggs that infect people and give them super powers.  Very stupid.  MOVIES LIKE Growth:  There are soooo many better “infection” movies out there: Cabin Fever (2002), Cabin Fever 2 (2009), Splinter (2008), The Ruins (2008), The Thaw (2009), The Thing (1982, 2011), The Bay (2012), The Dreamcatcher (2003), Night of the Creeps (1986), The Puppet Masters (1994), They Live (1988)…any of these would be better choices for movie night.  Well, maybe not Dreamcatcher.

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Off the coast of Maine festers the island of Cuttyhunk.  20 years ago this small island served as a Mecca for research in human genetics: “The Human Growth Project.”  Somehow, ground-breaking studies of oysters and special pearls led to a “jump in human evolution”, but also somehow led to a biohazard that wiped out 75% of Cuttyhunk’s population.

Jaime (Mircea Monroe; The Change Up, Tekken, Magic Mike) grew up on the island and her father was involved in the research that created all the problems.  She fled the outbreak which claimed her parents’ lives only to return 20 years later to sell her parents property with her boyfriend Marco (Brian Krause; Sleepwalkers, Charmed), her stepbrother Justin (Christopher Shand; Return to Sleepaway Camp, Hit and Run) and Kristin (Nora Kirkpatrick).  It should come as no shock that there’s no phone reception on Cuttyhunk Island.

For whatever reason, they made Mircea Monroe (playing Jamie) LESS attractive for this role.  Not sure why.

They uncover Cuttyhunk’s long suppressed secrets.  Their experiments somehow created a new parasitic worm which is linked to Jamie’s past.  There are town council members up to shady business, culty locals dressed in black and hooded strangers skulking around in the woods watching them.  Jamie struggles to escape the pursuit of locals who know that she has inherited more than she could have imagined.

The parasites grant their hosts telepathy, heightened strength and reflexes and an accelerated sex drive.  What’s that?  Why the increased sex drive?  Is that how the parasite is transmitted to new hosts?  Nope.  That’s just a typical staple that direct-to-DVD horrors rely on just like their 80s video-era predecessors.  These worms bore through flesh as easily as CGI effects can illustrate.  As for the enhanced strength, infected people can punch chunks of bark and wood off trees like Bane demolishes cement pillars every time Batman dodges his punches.

Yes.  I agree.  That’s ridiculous.

How experiments in human genetics generated mutant worms that grant humans powers is beyond my understanding and sounds like a 10-year old wrote this story.  They’re also vulnerable to salt and the island is surrounded by salt water, which smacks of a child’s disturbing fascination with slowly killing slugs.  Was this written by a child?

“Wait, what? Why would the worms be vulnerable to salt?”

So…Cuttyhunk, huh?  Interesting name.  Sounds like what your body looks like when the little wormy parasites of this movie are done with you.  Speaking of which, the creature effects are largely obvious C-grade CGI when worms are encountered en masse, but they’re entertaining and the worms were given more personality than simply a “copy and paste”-generated blurry swarm.  Shots of individual worms seem to be more B-grade CGI and reveal more intricate details of the parasite’s odd morphology, which look like miniature versions of the alien worm parasites from The Dreamcatcher (2003).  The worms take many forms throughout the movie, even earthworms, and this is a sign on inconsistency and not creativity.

SPOILER ALERT!  In the end Jamie discovers that her father is like “the head infected guy” on the island.  How does she recognize him after 20 years?  He’s wearing the same shoes he wore the day her mother died.  You got that?  He’s been wearing the same shoes for 20 years.  Who does that?  How old is your oldest pair of shoes?

So here are some big questions for the child-minded writer of this movie. 

1) Since the worms (and subsequently their hosts) want to spread the infection, why didn’t they just leave the effing island?  The ending suggests that our hero escapes by boat and cannot be followed by the infected.  Can’t the infected just get in another effing boat?  WTF?!?!?  Has no one required major medical attention and needed to leave the island (perhaps while infected)?  Evidently not!  Not one broken bone in 20 years.  Healthiest town ever.

2) We also learn that all of the human genetic enhancement stuff started with bioengineered oysters that make  special pearls, which we later learn are EGGS for these worms.  WHAT!?!?!?!  So oysters compact sand from the sea floor into living worm eggs of a new species that parasitizes humans and gives them special powers and  a repulsion for seamanship, leaving them bound on the island with the stupid name?  Is that what happened?  REALLY?!?!?!  By what insane reasoning does that make any sense?  It’s official.  This stupid movie is stupider than any stupid thing I’ve seen this year by a stupid lot.

“Wait, what? The worms hatch from eggs produced by oysters, which live in salt water, and the worms are vulnerable to AND afraid of salt water?  FML!!!”

This was writer/director Gabriel Cowan first solo non-documentary directorial debut.  His fledgling status is clearly evidenced by his childishly uncreative choices regarding the symptoms of infection, the inconsistent depiction of the monstrous parasites, and his outlandish story.  Don’t watch his stupid movie unless you’re in the mood to laugh at what he apparently believed to be a credible horror movie.

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