THE GREASY STRANGLER Review
Director: Jim Hosking
Genre: Dark Comedy
Midnight movies prove to be an interesting conundrum. With few possessing qualities that would traditionally be regarded as meritable, they ask their audience to set aside their preconceived notions of what makes a film objectively enjoyable, and instead participate in a communal assessment of a film based on its ability to inspire and evoke emotion. However, since community is an essential part of their specific viewing experience, it begs the question as to whether there’s any joy to be had in pursuing midnight movies outside of their initial presentation. THE GREASY STRANGLER can only be considered a midnight movie, and is, in fact, quite enjoyable when encountered in that setting. However, when stripped away of its status as an “event,” there are not enough returns to make the film easily recommended.
Most popularly known for contributing the “G is for Grandad” segment to THE ABCS OF DEATH 2, director Jim Hosking contributes a first feature to what will assuredly be a strange and divisive career. The “story” of THE GREASY STRANGLER, if it can be called that, is simple. Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels) and Big Brayden (Sky Elobar) are a father-son duo that live in comparative squalor in Big Ronnie’s house. The two are uneasy roommates, with Big Ronnie dominating over Big Brayden in practically every aspect of life. While on an excursion of the Walking Disco Tour that they run, Big Brayden becomes infatuated with Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo). Of course, before long, Big Ronnie wants a piece of the action, and a love triangle develops while a string of murders at the hands of a mysterious entity known as the Greasy Strangler grows increasingly prolific. Big Brayden and Janet must uncover the true identity of the Greasy Strangler before it’s too late.
Be sure to take yer mum!
Or at least, that’s what they would have done in a more narratively sound version of this movie. I am fully aware that movies of this ilk don’t exactly require exemplary screenwriting in order to be enjoyable, but THE GREASY STRANGLER is frustrating in how willfully it refutes the several different threads of potentially engaging plot that it possesses. While it’s surprising that the film elects to focus on the relationship between Big Ronnie, Big Brayden, and Janet as opposed to the antics of the Greasy Strangler, it renders said antics all the more arbitrary. A proper plot, as it were, doesn’t develop until well into the actual third act, when Big Brayden and Janet make the obvious realization that Big Ronnie is the one terrorizing the town and have to determine what to do with him.
That’s not a spoiler, by the way, as the film almost immediately throws out any suspense or mystery regarding the Strangler’s identity with the trash. However, while the early reveal of Big Ronnie’s culpability could have been milked for ironic tension, forcing Big Ronnie to live a double life in the hopes of avoiding suspicion, instead we mostly just tread water as several absurd set pieces are introduced and developed. In a standout scene that shows a glimmer of hope for a much different movie, Big Ronnie has to masquerade as a detective looking into his own crimes. Introducing this element earlier could have contributed to something as narratively fulfilled as it is bizarre.
On that note, THE GREASY STRANGLER left me a little disappointed with how palatable it ended up being. Supposedly grotesque to a transcendent degree, I found THE GREASY STRANGLER to only really double down for a few scenes of shuddering tastelessness (“oily grapefruit”), most times being no more shocking than the average Filthy Frank video. Big Ronnie’s near fetishization of grease is rather objectively squeamish, but I was expecting grease to be guzzled to an unholy degree. Now, that’s not to say that the film isn’t still an affront to middle-class sensibilities; everyone should go in with the expectation of being exposed to prosthetic genitals and bush au naturale that will leave more than a few groaning in disbelief (“It looks like a massive mouse head!”). Actually, the rampant sexualization of bodies that wouldn’t traditionally be considered sexually viable is one of the film’s most redeemable assets, as it’s democratic and honest in its forceful presentation of the fact that everyone, no matter their size or shape, experiences the carnal pull of love, comparable to similar efforts at the hands of Tim and Eric.
Doing the Lord’s work
In general, the Tim and Eric stamp is almost painfully obvious as presented here, considering the film’s obtuse reactions, deadpan line delivery, and general sense of sardonic anti-humor. It also doesn’t help that Sky Elobar could easily play Eric Wareheim’s brother. While this ensures that the film is consistently engaging in its weirdness, when the schizophrenic editing and meta-textual flourishes of Tim and Eric are taken away but the core humor is kept, things can’t help but feel derivative. Which is a shame, because there are glimpses of a unique sense of humor here that contribute to the film’s stronger moments, most notably the “potato chip” scene occurring near the beginning of the film. Demonstrating a remarkable ability to stretch a joke past the point of any logical coherence, we can’t help but double-over as Hosking has his actors repeat the same line of questioning over and over again, exposing the structural absurdity to a side-splitting degree.
As should be obvious, absurdity proves to be the main calling card of THE GREASY STRANGLER, with Ronnie’s post-strangling ritual being another regularly amusing occurrence. Also of note is a subtly bizarre post-apocalyptic element, with the deserted streets, dark houses, and empty establishments suggesting a world that’s not quite our own, similarly suggesting a strange, hyper-masculine hierarchy with the repeated use of the word “Big” to describe all male characters.
At least calling him “Big” Ronnie makes perfect sense
I will admit I’m being a little unfair, as I do actually think you should see the film in the appropriate after-hours setting. Even with all the criticisms lobbied above, you get to see an old man lathered in grease popping eyeballs out of skulls, and if that’s not an engaging premise for a midnight movie, than I don’t know what is. While this will certainly enjoy some late night viewings when it inevitably makes its way to instant streaming services, for my money, you’re much better off watching the effortlessly quippy and far more offensive TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE. You’ll laugh during THE GREASY STRANGLER, but you most likely will never feel the desire to watch it again.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend