It’s kind of hard to describe The Greasy Strangler. Well, that’s not quite true. It’s weird, it’s disgusting, it’s…greasy. But it’s also quite unique; a confrontationally odd experience that will alienate many, and find adoring fans who are looking for a little “confrontationally odd” in their lives.
It’s a vomit-inducing hybrid of John Waters, Troma, Kids In The Hall, Tim and Eric, the grimiest of 80s slashers and The League Of Gentlemen. We were shocked, we were nauseated, and we giggled a lot.
The film focuses on Big Brayden (Sky Elobar), a grown man who lives with his virile father Big Ronnie (Michael St Michaels). By day they run a highly suspect disco walking tour, and by night Big Ronnie is The Greasy Strangler, murdering those who have irritated him while wearing nothing but a thick layer of grease. When Brayden falls for open-minded Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo), will it drive the jealous Ronnie over the edge?
Director Jim Hosking and his co-writer Toby Harvard have such a clear idea of what they want to do that there’s not much effort made to accommodate anyone who’s not immediately on board. They’ve created a world that’s kind of amazing in its completeness, with no normal to act as a baseline for the weirdness to follow, and dialogue that’s deliberately corny, fantastically coarse and just plain odd.
Elobar’s Brayden is a well-meaning man-child who’s stifled at nearly every turn by his grease-demanding, groin-flaunting father. Indeed, it’s Big Ronnie who’ll be haunting you on the way home. Michael St Michael’s performance is fantastically monstrous but Hosking delivers a film to match him. You never question that someone like Big Ronnie could survive and thrive in the downtown of The Greasy Strangler; even as he emerges from the carwash, buck-naked, and pulls a (fake) 10-dollar bill out of…well, guess.
It’s not for everyone but that seems to be absolutely the point. From the opening discussion of whether grease should go in coffee (“That’s a real gross-out, Dad!”) to the jokes that are based on endless repetition, Hosking is gleefully pushing at your buttons, but there are moments of unexpected sensitivity to the movie too. Both Ronnie and Brayden are wounded easily and both actors are as capable of playing hurt and vulnerable as they are flashing grotesque prosthetic phalluses (this happens a lot). Janet is less well-rounded but well-played by De Razzo, and Hosking refuses to position her purely as a innocent victim or a manipulative vixen.
Perhaps most importantly, The Greasy Strangler is very well made. We’re so used to trashy “Grindhouse” homages offering either callous shock value or a smug sense of “weren’t these movies terrible?” humour, but this impresses with both its sincerity and its quality (special mention must go to Andrew Hung’s incredible soundtrack). Elijah Wood and Ben Wheatley are on board as producer and executive producer respectively and their stamp of approval more than justified.
Inevitably the jokes don’t all land, and you may well be irritated by its sense of humour and revolted by what it has to offer, but if you’re looking for a midnight movie that’s genuinely strange, this is for you. Get greasy.