The main premise of Anderson Cowan’s debut feature film, Groupers, sounds simple: Psychology grad student Meg kidnaps two barhopping young men (Brad and Dylan) to use as subjects for her thesis experiment on whether homosexuality is a choice. As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that there is much more at stake than a simple test, and as Meg’s careful plan spirals out of control, the only constant is that homophobia is so totally ridiculous.
I have been familiar with Anderson Cowan for several years through his podcasts, The Film Vault, The After Disaster, and Cinamaddicts, so I knew more about Groupers than an average reviewer. Plus, I knew how much effort had gone into bringing this film to completion. At the same time, I held off viewing it because… what if I hated it? This film’s humor is dark, a little twisted, and sometimes off-kilter and not entirely PC. (It definitely is for mature audiences or for parents to watch and discuss with their teenagers.), and I wasn’t sure it would work for me. To my delight, when I finally took the plunge, I spent a little under two hours smiling, thinking, decoding, and laughing out loud, so if the idea of anything other than fingers in a Chinese finger trap amuses you as much as it does me, this may be your new favorite film!
Part of the magic of Groupers was not knowing exactly how it would unfold. I will only say that Meg, Dylan, and Brad are not the only characters that show up in her diabolical experiment at the bottom of an empty swimming pool. The protagonist’s reasons for torturing Brad and Dylan are also much deeper than scientific curiosity, but what societal pressure keeps every new cast member from just rescuing the boys and calling the cops on Meg? Could it be that they’d rather be part of the larger collective in hopes that no one will turn on them?
Cowan’s dialogue is the crowning glory for the movie. In a limited setting with limited action, what the cast said and how they said it took center stage. Not every line is meant to encourage amusement (and one character going on about drum circles felt incredibly pretentious even as I laughed uncomfortably because we’ve all know that person), but the unexpectedness of some comments had me gasping for air during many scenes.
I didn’t pick up everything in Groupers on a first viewing, though, and I may need to watch it again to see if I can understand the nuances. I completely missed that Hank and Frank were neo-Nazis, not just punks, and character Talkie felt strange and unnecessary until the final third of the film. I may still not love everything on the screen, but that’s okay. It was an enjoyable ride, and I want others to join me.
I’ve seen many indie movies – some through Fanbase Press – and nothing has ever hit me quite like Groupers. Admittedly, I know more about the process and creator than most films I consume, but I’ve been thinking about this movie since I finished viewing it. If you appreciate dark humor looking at societal issues, Groupers will be up your alley, and even if you don’t love it the way I do, you’ll have something to discuss with your friends and colleagues.
4.5 “Pigs in a Blanket” out of 5
Creative Team: Anderson Cowan (writer/director)
Producer: Cold Cockle Productions; Distribution by Global Digital Releasing
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