“It’s not a cult. It’s America.” Grand Zero, Kevin Oeser’s 15-minute trip into suburban dystopia, is a strange and dryly humorous satire of pyramid schemes, specifically the American company ‘Amway’ – which the film explicitly asserts it is not inspired by. It’s inspired by a ‘totally different company’, but the film quickly undercuts this by having the main character Peter’s wife immediately ask if the two companies are similar. Peter (a brilliant and constantly incredulous Brian Huskey) and his family have moved into his recently deceased parents’ home in a town in Michigan, and soon discover that they are the only people who haven’t bought into the company Dreamstar’s seemingly nightmarish pyramid scheme.
In Grand Zero, Oeser compares the idea of a pyramid scheme to a brainwashed, misguided cult which violently and aggressively attempts to assimilate members and keep them under its control. The conversations between the main character Peter and various members of ‘Dreamstar’ are reminiscent of scenes described in the Scientology documentary Going Clear. Positions of power within Dreamstar such as ‘Gold’ or ‘Double Gold’ appear as meaningless as they are vague. The de facto head of the company is treated as a Messanic figure, to which those lower down the ladder devoutly worship.
The film starts off ridiculous, and only escalates from there – the deadpan absurdity of the piece is probably the film’s main selling point, in which a funeral service is interrupted, without fuss, so a potential scheme member can have a business meeting. Grand Zero only gets funnier as it drops all pretense of subtlety, the mob of scheme members turning from slightly creepy parodies to a brainless, zombie horde. This would be a turn too far were it not for the way in which the film is crafted; never overly stylized but still doing well to pastiche multiple genres in its cinematography as well as its narrative. Grand Zero is weird, hilarious and supremely silly – and all in just 15 minutes.
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CAST: Brian Huskey, Janie Haddad Tompkins, Lexi Ainsworth, Thomas Lennon, Ian Roberts
DIRECTOR: Kevin Oeser
WRITER: Kevin Oeser
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: Christopher Hamilton
EDITOR: Yuka Shirasuna
SYNOPSIS: A family man returns to his hometown to discover he’s the last person in town who’s not part of a legendary pyramid scheme.