Director: Jim Hosking
Cast: Michael St. Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo
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It’s only fair to warn you upfront: there are things in The Greasy Strangler that can never be unseen. Admittedly, as with the early films of John Waters, that’s pretty much the point. Either way, two things are certain: you’ll definitely laugh and you’ll never look at a fry-up in the same way again.
The debut feature of British director Jim Hosking, The Greasy Strangler is set in what looks like a run-down neighbourhood of Los Angeles, giving it the appearance of a US indie. The story centres on grouchy 70-something Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels, looking like a re-animated version of Klaus Kinski), who operates a less-than-factual “Disco Tours” business with his hulking, nerdy adult son, Big Brayden (Sky Elobar).
When Brayden gets a girlfriend (Elizabeth De Razzo as Janet), Big Ronnie becomes insanely jealous and schemes to take her away from him. At the same time, Brayden begins to suspect that his father is The Greasy Strangler, a local killer who slathers himself in grease and stalks the streets at night, murdering people who annoy him.
The performances are nothing short of extraordinary, with the leads throwing themselves whole-heartedly into the roles, complete with copious amounts of deeply unsavoury nudity (the prosthetics alone will give you nightmares). St. Michaels, in particular, is a real find, a proper old-school grotesque with a piercing gaze and a style of line delivery that’s all his own.
The infinitely quotable dialogue is either hilarious or infuriating, depending on how funny you find the comedy of repetition – for example, a number of scenes consist of the pair yelling “Bullshit artist!” at each other over and over again (like the “cool beans” scene in Hot Rod), while another gets big laughs from characters saying the word “potato”.
Hosking has an impressive eye for gross-out material, to the point where it’s strongly advised that you don’t eat anything beforehand. Alongside all the sex and nudity, there are numerous scenes of Big Ronnie covering his food in grease and oil (he constantly complains that it isn’t greasy enough), while the murder scenes are deliberately gory and over-the-top, with cartoonish special effects taken to ridiculous extremes.
Throughout the levels of depravity, though, the central relationship remains oddly compelling, particularly during a surreal final act that owes a debt to Jodorowsky. The film is further enhanced by some inspired costume design work (father and son have a penchant for matching pink ladies-wear), as well as an enjoyably weird score from Andrew Hung.
While it definitely won’t be to everyone’s tastes, The Greasy Strangler is a deliriously entertaining black comedy that’s a treat for fans of midnight movies. The film’s future cult status seems assured and it will be fascinating to see what Hosking does next.