Film Review – The Greasy Strangler (2016)

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It’s rare that you watch a film and get the sense that it is an instant cult classic, but this is certainly the case with the Jim Hosking directed The Greasy Strangler. Co-written by Hosking and Toby Harvard, this marvellously titled film boasts echoes of John Waters’ early work in its sheer kitsch filth, yet The Greasy Strangler is its own unique beast. This instantly quotable trash odyssey is a cinematic experience quite like no other.

Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels) and his son Big Brayden (Sky Elobar) run a disco walking tour and find pleasure in deeply greasy food, but this harmonious existence is shattered when the two men enter competition for the affections of customer Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo). This relationship is only strained further when the Greasy Strangler killings continue to haunt the city.

Hosking and Harvard have crafted a gleefully outlandish narrative soaked in a greasy filth that guarantees crude laughs and camp moments of genre nastiness. The oddball relationship between Ronnie and Brayden is instantaneously engaging with the peculiar father and son strutting around in underpants (when we’re lucky enough not be subjected to a gross prosthetic penis), serving each other up food drenched in grease, and fighting for the affections of the curvaceous Janet. Within this dynamic the writers play with some hilarious and immediately quotable lines of dialogue – delivered with an awkward intensity in terrific overbaked performances from St. Michaels and Elobar. “Tell me Janet, is my Dad a smoothie?”, “Bullshit artist!” and “Hootie tootie disco cutie!” are particularly tickling lines of dialogue when placed in the camp context they belong.

Hosking has created an off-kilter world filled with oddballs and curious events and compliments this with wonderful aesthetic choices. From the derelict locations of Brayden & Ronnie’s home to discotheques untouched since the 1970s, contrasted with the garish bright exteriors of decaying urban zones (many of which feature on Big Ronnie’s Disco Tour), The Greasy Strangler is a feast of grossly watchable proportions. Paired with a wardrobe usually consisting of high neck pink sweaters, short-shorts and prosthetic penises, The Greasy Strangler is delivered with a real aesthetic originality which helps it build its own unique unsettling universe. This is further complimented by an outstanding electronic score from Andrew Hung that sits somewhere between an eighties videogame theme and MIDI musical file.

Much of The Greasy Strangler‘s comedy is rooted in its depiction of horror elements. The titular villain’s attacks are occasionally unwatchable in their nastiness, but still retain a camp humour thanks to the attacker being laced in thick grease. Even when The Greasy Strangler delves into a certain level of goriness e.g. eyeballs being popped out or faces being smushed it still retains this level of humour. Snappy editing from Mark Burnett ensures peak comic timing throughout like that seen in amusing cut-aways of Big Ronnie being repeatedly cleaned in a car wash.

Much praise should be delivered to Michael St. Michaels and Sky Elobar who deliver their performances with a camp faux-seriousness. The odd relationship between this father and son duo is pitched with the perfect level of comedy and bizarrely sweet pathos. Supporting turns also ensure that the level of trashy fun and energy is kept high – scenes involving a trio of tourists and the pronunciation of potato is likely to reduce some to tears, whilst Big Ronnie’s reaction to Brayden’s buddy Oinker’s (Joe David Walters) shoes is priceless. Elizabeth De Razzo is consistently wonderful as sexually-uninhibited Janet, the sweet girl at the heart of Big Roddie and Brayden’s battle.

The Greasy Strangler is a trash masterpiece packed with both an amusing and disturbing kitsch garishness. This is an instantly quotable cult classic that boasts Hosking as a major talent to watch within the genre and has us desperate to see more of Big Ronnie and Brayden.

[rating=5] | Andrew McArthur

Comedy, Horror | USA, 2016 | 18 | Picturehouse Entertainment | 7th October 2016 (UK)| Dir. Jim Hosking | Michael St. Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo, Joe David Walters, Gil Gex

This is a repost of our Sundance London 2016 Festival review