Brad (Peter Mayer-Klepchick) and Dylan (Cameron Duckett) are in a lot of trouble. They’ve been tied to chairs, tied to each other and they’re now sitting at the bottom of an empty swimming pool. The night before they were approached by a beautiful woman named Meg (Nicole Dambro) who wanted to get really drunk with them. However, they soon find out that Meg is the one who has tied them up and is going to torture them until she gets the results that she wants. It also doesn’t hurt that Brad and Dylan are two homophobic jocks and Meg is set on changing their minds.
Groupers is the feature debut from writer/director Anderson Cowan. Supposedly the premise for the film was devised on an episode of a podcast that Cowan co-hosts. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of a thought beyond that.
When Meg kidnaps and starts to torture the men there is clearly a conflict in the way that she is trying to conduct her ‘research’. Whereas the two men clearly deserve some kind of retribution for their behaviour, as soon as the twist is revealed the film starts to lose its appeal and the potential discussions that could have surrounded the film fall flat.
Groupers could have opened a deeper discussion on the causes of homophobia and could have talked about the morality of trying to stop abuse and violence with abuse and violence but unfortunately, I don’t believe the filmmakers thought that deeply. On the one hand there are a couple of gay characters which could have aided in the discussion of homophobia, but there are also a lot of other characters introduced (seemingly at random) who are as abusive and violent as Brad and Dylan and this is supposed to be part of the joke. The point is that it feels like Cowan thought that his initial premise wasn’t strong enough to carry an entire film, so threw in some quirky characters to liven things up.
Unfortunately, adding new characters seems to do the opposite as the second half makes the pace feel slow and frustrating. Characters talk across each other and there doesn’t really feel like a natural conclusion until the dialogue stops because it seems like Cowan doesn’t feel qualified to have a deeper discussion. Saying all this though, Dambro gives a good performance and the chemistry between the two jocks makes them strangely likeable (despite the homophobia). However, once Cowan has run out of ideas with what to do with them, Groupers feels over indulgent and erratic. Thankfully though, the film doesn’t delve too deeply into torture porn as its premise suggests.
Groupers is an original idea that runs out of juice, never saying anything clever or insightful about its subjects. The initial idea may have seemed funny in a juvenile kind of way, but Cowan never really settles on his opinion of the bullies. If Cowan’s idea was to show a discussion where everybody is shouting their opinions at each other and nobody benefits like is so often the case online, then mission accomplished. Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate well to film and before Groupers is over the audience may want to distract themselves with something else.
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