20th Sep2019

‘Groupers’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Cameron Duckett, Peter Mayer-Klepchick, Nicole Dambro, Jesse Pudles, Brian Ioakimedes, Max Reed III, Travis Stanberry, Terrance Wentz, Marqus Bobesich, Edward Jackson, Travis Lee Eller | Written and Directed by Anderson Cowan


Written and directed by Anderson Cowan (Everybody Dies), Groupers is a comedy-drama about a student in grad-school who abducts a couple of homophobes to use as subjects in her experiment, an experiment that she conducts at the bottom of am empty swimming pool.

Now, this is an easy movie to spoil and I don’t really want to do that, so I’ll avoid any major reveals or spoilers in this review. I went in to this with a real sense of intrigue, wondering how a plot that seemed fairly slim would work as a 110 minute movie. The film introduces us to Dylan (Cameron Duckett) and Brad (Peter Mayer-Klepchick), who, while out for a night of boozing and attempted sexual experiences, are kidnapped by Meg (Nicole Dambro), a girl who happens to have a brother who has been the target of the homophobic harassment from Dylan and Brad. Meg takes the two ignorant fools and, in the bottom of a pool, begins to perform her own psychological experiment on them, an experiment that is the basis of her grad-school thesis, a thesis that aims to answer the question about whether or not “homosexuality is a choice”.

This really is a thoughtful film, with Anderson Cowan bringing a story full of turns and dark moments, yet enough humour to keep things from dropping too dark, becoming too sadistic. It looks really nice, with fine cinematography from Milan Janicin. The three leads are all played well, especially Meg, played confidently and with a real good-guy/bad-guy aura, by Dambro. I laughed a few times, I was shocked by some of what happened, and I thought overall Cowan has delivered a unique movie here. Now, it isn’t perfect and it has its flaws and its problems. There are stereotypes at play here, perhaps to the point of undermining the very ideas it takes aim at. The tone can change from dark and serious to a bit silly and that, once in a while, did grate on me. The themes of racism and homophobia themselves are treated with a respectful hand, the points being made though are repeated, with Cowan certainly having a vision and a need to see it through, even if the writing can sometimes make it feel a touch over-worked.

The characters, though, are played well, and this is something I haven’t seen before. It’s a hostage situation with a difference, and as things unfold it becomes more and more intriguing. Some may lose interest as the film alters the route you think it may go down, but I thought it worked quite well, and the twists are entertaining a lot of the time. It’s a touch disjointed and didn’t, in all honesty, work as well as I’d hoped it would, it loses its way after an hour or so, only pulling itself back in the closing moments. Still, the script has some solid messages inside of it, and I enjoyed plenty of the film. Conceptually very good, but a bit on the hit-and-miss side of things in execution, Groupers takes a dark and terrible idea, of homophobia, racism and bullying, and attempts to speak about it with humour. It works but it doesn’t work. It’s good, but it’s also a touch disappointing. Still, it’s worth a watch.

**½  2.5/5

Groupers is in select cinemas across the US from September 27th.


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