THE GREASY STRANGLER/2016
DIRECTOR: Jim Hosking
WRITER: Jim Hosking, Toby Harvard
CAST: Michael St. Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo
I am not a fan of flatulence and/or scatological humor. Strangely I guess some people are or films like The Greasy Strangler, from first time director Jim Hosking, would never have come into existence. Don’t get me wrong, please. It is not that I am above snickering or even laughing at a good fart gag. It is just when the premise of the entire film is built around setting up a scene to exploit some disgusting bodily functions of one form or another I am a bit put off. And the bottom line is that that is what The Greasy Strangler does. It is not that the film is all that bad but it really is attempting to be disgusting and it goes a but over board at times and so loses some of the dark but clever humor it generates at others. I watched all the old John Waters stuff back on VHS and the film has some characteristics of a John Waters’ film. It also has some aspects, here and there, of a movie by some one like Frank Henenlotter or Paul Bartel and some moments even David Lynch. Wow, sort of lofty company one may think. But is like a song that steals a lick from Led Zeppelin and a melody line from The Beatles and some vocal phrasing from The Rolling Stones, and yet somehow the song still manages to be, well, bad and unlistenable.
The film’s story, and there is a neglected story here, is around the relationship between Big Ronnie and his son Big Brayden. It not much of a relationship and the one bound they seem to have is carrying on the “family business” of taking people on a guided tour of sites around L.A. that once hosted former disco legends. They wear matching turtle neck sweaters on the tour and of course the whole thing is an obvious sham but every one plays it serious. It is part of the film’s strange humor that works on a certain level. On one tour Braydon meets chunky monkey Janet and a romance blossoms. Janet is at home with all the farting and shitting and greasiness of the guy’s home. Big Ronnie is soon jealous of the relationship and is soon wooing Janet with greasy grapefruits and his large and visible (and prosthetic) uncircumcised penis. If you are offended by large ugly wangs hanging out all the time in a film you may want to take a pass on this one. Everyone wears some sort of fake genital piece, including Janet. And yes, there is a strangler who is greasy and it is Big Ronnie. This is made clear from the get go and so it is so spoiler. Tensions mount and old past issues arise between father and son as the strangler murders off about every extra cast member in the film as the movie progresses. It ends on a strange note and I did not waste much time trying to figure out the ending, nor the 90 minutes or so of the film leading up to the ending.
The film may appeal to people who have some background in watching films by people like John Waters and not being overly offended by them (though Hosking is no John Waters by any stretch, not that being John Waters is something to be ecstatic about anyway ), or it may appeal to groups of drunk young guys and borderline serial killers. In all honestly it will not appeal to too many people. Why? It is not really appealing. It becomes simply annoying. The actors deliberately read lines poorly and play the scenes in a deadpan manner, almost reminding me of something like Lynch’s Eraserhead. But it gets annoying when the gags go on too long, like when there is some miscommunication over the word potato, or Ronnie and Brayden calling each bullshit artist over and over and over. It borders on cleverness but never attains it. The sex scenes are revolting as are the dinner table scenes where Big Ronnie wants everything super greasy for some never explained reason. I will be honest I did like some moments of the film. Here was, as I have said, some cleverness and sometimes the bad acting and dialog were funny. Maybe it was intentionally bad is my feeling. Some of the shots are pretty good and the weird synthesizer scores works actually. But scenes like where Brayden is plowing fat Janet with his finger up her anus and she says “It feels good but what if I fart” just are not funny. Maybe it is meant to offend and it does, but not in the same way a John Waters’ film offend or something like Frankenhooker offends. Those films have a sort of comic, satirical sophistication to them. The Greasy Strangler just had guys with their fingers up some fat woman’s asses. Nothing much else.