The movie opens, like Pulp Fiction, by defining its title. A “grouper” is a slang term for someone who changes sexual orientation later in life. Interestingly, this definition comes by analogy with the grouper fish, which sometimes changes sex. That etymology isn’t included within the film itself, I had to look it up. Perhaps general audiences are better-versed in marine biology than I am.
In any case, it’s only tangentially relevant, in the sense that the picture sees psychology student Meg (Nicole Dambro) attempt an experiment that almost certainly wouldn’t get past her department’s ethics board, involving kidnapping two high-school dudebros, tying them together with their penises in a Chinese finger-trap, and trying to test the hypothesis that homosexuality is a choice: if they can both manage to get stiffies at the same moment, she’ll let them go. She has her own ulterior motive, though, in that these two dudebros bullied her gay younger brother, it is implied, to the point of suicide. Don’t you hate it when people disguise revenge as science?
Of course, her plan’s unscientific in myriad ways, but that’s not really the point. Trashy and puerile as its premise may be, the first twenty minutes or so are damned good fun, Dambro performing her character’s frustrated sarcasm with gusto as the dudebros, obnoxious Brad (Peter Mayer-Klepchick) and charmingly vacant Dylan (Cameron Duckett) defend their actions, accuse Meg of hypocrisy, bicker pettily, and generally fail to be the satisfying victims she’d hoped for. The whole thing’s a breezy riff on the likes of Saw, the tied-to-a-chair, tortured, and lectured endlessly type of film, and if it never quite makes the deep statement on homophobia it seems to think it has, it’s enjoyable enough for that not to be a concern.
Sadly, as is often the case with single-location horrors, the writer-director – Anderson Cowan, known as much for his podcasts at Film Vault and The After Disaster as for his independent films – seems to have come up with a great premise for a story, rather than a great story. Groupers could have been a very entertaining short; what happens instead is that Cowan runs out of things to do with the Meg-Brad-Dylan situation, and loses interest in it, introducing instead one gangster grotesque after another, turning the film from a tight, comedic horror to something that feels, not so much like a Tarantino imitation, but an imitation of one of those many Tarantino imitations that sprung up in the mid-to-late 90s.
Groupers begins its US theatrical realease from the 27th September.