Director: Jim Hosking
Cast: Michael St. Michael, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo
Runnng Time: 93mins
There is nothing new under the sun, so the old the saying goes. Certainly in the era of billion dollar franchises, reboots, remakes, sequels and prequels it can seem like inspiration and originality are in short supply on the big screen. That said there is always original things out there if you look in the right places and this is where The Greasy Strangler comes in as a gloriously weird one-of-a-kind.
The film centres on Brayden (Sky Elobar) a middle-aged man living with his cantankerous irascible, but amusing, father Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michael) who is obsessed with greasy food and run “disco tours” (Big Ronnie basically makes up where moments of disco history have happened) round L.A. On one of these he meets Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo) who he instantly falls in love with much to the chagrin of his father. This sparks off a competition between the two for her affection. Which sounds straightforward enough doesn’t it?
Not so much as this love triangle may just be the weirdest love triangle in cinema. Also let’s not forget that there is the eponymous Greasy Strangler running around bumping off all the supporting cast. If you think you know pretty much what you are getting into from that description there you may be surprised. As the film is not really about the love triangle and while, obviously, the film is about the Greasy Strangler it is not about the mystery of who the Greasy Strangler is (it is entirely obvious from the beginning) nor why he kills. No the film is really a series of loosely connected vignettes some of which are inspired and none of which are unmemorable.
There are several scenes that will probably stick with any viewer for a long time (whether they want it to or not) especially the sex scenes which are genuinely something to behold and 100% totally un-erotic (seriously if this excites you, you may need help). You have to admire the three leads for exposing themselves in such a way as they are made to look as unflattering and odd as possible. Not only that but probably no film in cinema history has taken this much care and attention on penis prosthetics.
The acting is also weird in a sense in that it is hard to judge the performances. As Sky Ebolar, Michael St. Michael and Elizabeth De Razzo all put in very good performances while deliberately performing in a bad acting style or certainly that is how your reviewer here interpreted it there is no doubt some who will believe it is simply a case of poor acting. In fact this comment could extend to the entire film as everything is deliberately over-extended, awkward and “badly” done but you sense there is clear intelligence behind it. Even if it is a sort of deranged intelligence as there is a whole smorgasbord of weird on display even down to the soundtrack which is a kind of twitchy, odd electro that sounds a bit like Aphex Twin composing on a Casio.
It might also be a bit strange to say about a film that has so many what-the-fuck moments but some of it borders on touching as while the father-and-son relationship is constantly bickering and fraught it is also shows the genuine affection between the two. Not the kind of character development you necessarily expect from a film about a naked killer covered head to toe in a thick layer of grease.
In the intro I said it is a one-of-a-kind, which it is, but it is not without reference points. As the fascination with grotesque characters doing grotesque things is very much in the early John Waters style, the repetitive “anti-comedy” nature of the humour is reminiscent of Tim and Eric, the stilted line delivery and awkward pauses bring to mind “Napoleon Dynamite” while the gloopy monster that is the Greasy Strangler himself and eye-ball popping violence has pure Troma written all over it.
Overall: To say this is not a film for everyone would be an understatement of massive proportions. There will be a lot of people (probably the majority) who will either hate it or simply won’t know what to make of it. That said those who love it will really love it and would not be surprised to see it gain “cult classic” in the not-so-distant future. As it is has weird performances, plenty of “what-did-I-just-see” moments, a great lo-fi look and it is highly quotable (WARNING: You may find yourself obsessively reciting the phrase “Hootie Tootie Disco Cutie”). You should watch this at least once just to experience it and who knows you may enjoy as much as your writer here.
The Greasy Strangler is now available on BluRay and DVD.
Words by Scott Murphy