“Groupers” is a farce about kidnapping two homophobic high school bullies and forcing them to prove their “thesis” — that homosexuality, “sexual proclivity,” is a choice.
If it is, they can “choose” to dabble in it same sex romance, and voila, go free.
It begins as a chatty, catty and not that amusing or harrowing hostage tale that falls well short of “thriller,” and devolves into something less.
A woman (Nicole Dambro) lures two young jocks (Peter Mayer-Klepchick, Cameron Duckett) into a van, where she gasses them and then ensnares them in an elaborate rope trap in an empty pool in an abandoned suburban LA subdivision.
It’s an “experiment,” she tells these two — cunning Brad (Mayer-Klepchick) and doltish Dylan (Duckett). She’ll record their actions, initiate “phases” to the experiment to egg (threaten) them on, and perhaps humiliate them in front of the world.
“Have you maimed me? Maimed US?”
I had thoughts of “Maybe we’re heading into ‘Hard Candy’ territory,” an early Ellen Page revenge on a rapist fantasy. But no.
We’re just settling into for this myopic three-character “play,” listening to Meg’s lectures on the nature of the trap, the “secrets” one of them keeps on his phone, the power dynamic of her controlling them with tasers as she taunts their narrow-mindedness, when other characters start showing up. And with few exceptions, each new addition waters down whatever point the movie is reaching for and fails to add anything funny to the proceedings.
The three person dynamic has discourses on “trickle-down abuse” of “hate crimes” the kids have been perpetuating on somebody at school, and the uncomfortable fact that Meg is “hate criming the hate criminals!”
And in extreme close-ups, the two boys — tied so tightly together — turn on each other.
“Are you ALWAYS like this, when you’re not high or drunk or both?”
Then, a glib gay stereotype shows up, joking about kidnapping being “number seven on my bucket list” and local criminal/squatters and the movie’s tongue-in-cheek tone goes straight out the window in favor of flailing, failed farce.
Points about racism and homophobia are pounded home, and of the new additions, only Terrance Wentz makes much of an impression, a stereotypical bulked-up black hoodlum who has some surprising opinions and attitudes on the subject at hand, and a funny way with every line he delivers.
“Oh, that’s savage. No need for savagery!”
When his character declares, “You mutha——s don’t know how to end s–t!” he is talking directly to his writer-director.
Which is to say after showing signs of comic life in the third act, the whole enterprise resolves itself in the most half-baked way you can imagine.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with violence, profanity, homophobic slurs
Credits: Written and directed by Anderson Cowan. A Global Digital release.
Running time: 1:49