THE GREASY STRANGLER
This is a review for a brand new Horror/Comedy film called “The Greasy Strangler”, Co-Written by Toby Harvard and Jim Hosking (and directed by Hosking). The Greasy Strangler is about the ongoing shenanigans of Ronny (played by Michael St. Michaels) and his son Brayden (Sky Elobar), who both run a disco walking tour in Los Angeles. They share an unhealthily close relationship that threatens to fracture apart upon meeting Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo), whom they both develop feelings for. This drawback marks the arrival of an oily strangler who stalks the streets at night looking for his next victim. The film also stars Gil Gex, Joe David Walters, Holland MacFallister and Sam Dissanayake. The Greasy Strangler had a handful of producers backing it, including the likes of Ben Wheatley (Kill List and High-Rise) and Elijah Wood (Maniac and TV’s, Wilfred). I initially heard about this film over twelve months ago and it peaked my curiosity, mainly because of the bonkers plot outline and the fact that Wheatley and Wood produced it.
Let’s dig in to Harvard and Hosking’s script for a minute because it really is something to behold. I saw a snippet of a review from one of the festivals it was playing at earlier in the year and it said something like, “This movie happens to you” (haha) and I think that’s quite an accurate quote. No if’s but’s or maybe’s, the script is balls to the wall, bat shit crazy and these writers leave no taboo uncharted. Its characters awkward and mundane interactions are akin to something like “Napoleon Dynamite”, even down to some of the line delivery (particularly from Elobar). The vulgar situations and lowbrow humor rival Tom Green’s “best bad” film, “Freddy Got Fingered” and even “Anchorman”, to a lesser extent. When it comes to the eccentricity of the whole thing, Hosking takes plenty of inspiration from the films of John Waters (Pink Flamingos and Polyester) and even more so with his approach to casting unusual leads, much like Waters did with Divine (originally born Harris Milstead). The camera work and shot choices look sharp and the audio track is loud and clear. I dug the light keys throughout the film and the obtrusive 80’s style synth with its repetitiveness, which in this case works. After you see the film I guarantee you could hear Andrew Hung’s, “Fizzy Barf” again and you’d remember exactly where you heard it.
The Greasy Strangler is a simple 90 minute journey that takes a look at the lives of Big Ronnie and his son Brayden, whom I’m almost sure are both legally retarded (haha). This on-screen relationship will have to go down as one of the most, if not the most, uncomfortable ever to be committed to film. By day, Ronnie and Brayden stroll the streets, leading small tourist groups who are looking to learn more about the disco era in Los Angeles. The mornings usually consist of Brayden cooking his dad breakfast, which never seems greasy enough for the old boy, so he proceeds to chew him out… rip him a new one about it.. etc. The duo’s nights don’t get interesting until Janet comes into the picture, from there, it’s a feeble battle between the two for her affections. I don’t always get personal in reviews but I want to say kudos to everyone involved in this film, particularly the colorful cast who clearly have no shame, agreeing to do a film like this (haha). I can’t fault the performances here, given how awkward everything is made to feel. I’ll be honest by saying I’ve never seen two more out of shape and unappealing guys than Michaels and Elobar. In this case it plays to the tone of the film and is funny in of itself. Nearly all of Sky’s delivery sounds like a cross between Napoleon Dynamite and Ron Burgundy and it’s hilarious. Michael is given a bit more of a range to work with and sounds distinctly like actor, Elliot Gould. De Razzo carries Janet with line delivery like one half of an embarrassingly, childish and lovey dovey couple.
For some unbeknown reason, Ronnie and Braydon spend all their time at home sitting around in their underwear. They’re clearly comfortable having no barriers or filter between them but that’s clearly not how most of our relationships with our family members are (or at least I should hope not haha). If Big Ronnie isn’t in his underwear, he’s naked, sporting a rather large and novelty prosthetic penis, running himself through the car wash to clean off grease he’s previously covered himself in. Why has he covered himself in grease you ask? Your guess is as good as mine, I don’t know why he does anything (haha). Even when these guys finally decide to get dressed, it’s always into the most hideous, non-gender specific attire. During disco tours they wear pink turtle necks and matching pink chord shorts (which can be seen in the above images). Ronnie likes to wear velvet when he goes out for a night on the town and Brayden usually dresses up in his 70’s, brown colored coat and disco pants for dates with Janet. My favourite gags in the film are so utterly stupid that I couldn’t help but laugh. In the beginning, a group of tourists ask about free drinks with the tour, it’s a silly gag that’s taken to a ridiculous extent (as are most of the gags) but it’s damn funny. Another sequence has an Indian man with a lisp (played by Dissanayake) trying to say “potato” and failing over and over and over again (it has me laughing just thinking about it). Ronnie refers to “cutting cheese” as he tries to catch Brayden out with his flatulence (yes it’s as stupid as it sounds) and their constant “I call bullshit”, “I call bullshit on that” continues to remain funny for most of its duration.
With this many inane scenes and interactions rolled into one, not everything is going to hit the mark. I think the several harsh uses of the C bomb were out-of-place when you take into account the infantile repetition and behavior of our father and son. Aside from those words there’s not a great deal of profanity in the film which is good. The Greasy Strangler contains a few action scenes and some practical effects, though neither of them are particularly memorable. There’s several eyeball gags but most of the other kills take place off-screen, leaving this one feeling more like part drama and a screwball comedy than horror. I wanted to see some crazy gore effects to go along with on this outrageous ride but alas. At least half of the films scenes stretch to an uncomfortably awkward length and another chunk of them consist of bizarre interactions that don’t drive the plot forward and really weren’t necessary. Gex’s character “Big Paul”, is a blind black man who works at the car wash and he’s a sort of dancing buddy of Ronnie’s, so he fits into the story. Walters plays “Oinker”, Brayden’s supposed best friend. Apart from one pointless and dull sequence between him and the duo, he’s just there to be killed off and never actually spends any screen time with Brayden. Ronnie and Brayden forever trying to out bullshit each other plays as the films running gag. It’s funny up until the end where Ronnie starts naming animals and placing “shit” at the end of them.
There’s endless sequences throughout The Greasy Strangler that aim to violate you in some way and they more than accomplish it. There’s plenty of stuff I could have done without seeing but I suppose that’s par for the course with a film this left of field. I didn’t need to hear about feces from all three of the main characters, or watch Janet (and in turn Razzo) peeing, as Ronnie brushes his teeth looking like a pervert. Ronnie’s detailed Michael Jackson/ejaculation story to Janet seemed futile and only served as word porn (for lack of a better word). The phone sex scene between Janet and Brayden missed the mark completely and only served to showcase more male genitalia. Let me tell you this, the feminists out there couldn’t complain about a lack of male nudity in film if they saw something like The Greasy Strangler (haha). The oil covered, grapefruit scene only serves to gross you out and makes damn sure you won’t finish that chocolate thick shake you started (just my experience). Ronnie’s addiction to grease is never actually explained and given it’s kind of a key plot point… I don’t know why it wasn’t, I mean it’s even in the title of the film. The consumption of eyeballs is another plot point that comes out of nowhere… maybe in a movie this nonsensical I shouldn’t ask for explanations, I don’t know. Another scene sees Ronnie doing his best impersonation of Gene Kelly from “Singin’ In The Rain”. Only in this rendition, he’s wearing what looks like a figure skating outfit with the crutch all cut out so you can see that fake genitalia yet again.
In a puerile attempt to aggravate Brayden, Ronnie cuts in on the relationship with Janet and showboats with a continuous chanting of “Hootie, Tootie, Disco Cutie”. The line initially got a chuckle from me but it wasn’t that funny to begin with and the longer it goes on the more annoying it becomes. So after a solid two minutes it had more than irritated me (maybe that was the point) and to make matters worse, it’s briefly repeated again ten or fifteen minutes later. A couple of scenes in particular took me right out of film, the first involving an investigator who Brayden and Janet contact in regard to the ongoing killings. What’s so dense about the whole thing is that the character is clearly just Ronnie playing dress up and trying to disguise himself to his son (awfully by the way). Brayden thinks his dad might be responsible for the murders and wants some help looking into it, yet can’t figure out that this mystery man is his dad. Those couple of scenes were the dumbest part of the whole movie and I understand that was probably the point but it just wasn’t funny. Then there’s the poorly written ending that includes a complete jolt in character motivation and logic, as well as an out-of-body experience of sorts that we see the father and son having while in a forest. The last ten minutes made no sense and strayed so far from its original path but I guess Hosking had the right to take the movie wherever he wanted and I have the right to say I didn’t like where it went.
The Greasy Strangler was pretty much what I expected it would be, unconventional, eccentric and totally offbeat, in every sense of the word. At the same time, I had no idea what I was really in for because you can never truly know until you see it for yourself (which I suggest you do). I love the retro poster art but the film has been somewhat mis-marketed. Drama is far more dominant in Hosking’s film than Horror is and in the end that stumped me. The script goes places not many others dare to and you have to respect it for that. The camera work and technical aspects are all sound and the obtrusive synth score is one of my favourite aspects of the film. I enjoyed all the performances, as much as one can with a movie like this but Elobar’s,”Brayden” was the highlight, probably because he reminds me of Napoleon Dynamite (who I’ve got a soft spot for). Many props to all the cast for putting themselves completely out there. I laughed at fair portions of the film but the lack of blood and gore left me feeling disappointed. A lot of the scenes are longer than they probably should be and most of the filthy descriptive stuff comes across as cringe worthy. There’s way more dick here than I cared to see (ideally none being that number) and the end of the film lost its way. I can’t really recommend The Greasy Strangler but what I will say, is that it’s truly an original experience and if you like the films of John Waters, I think it’s worth your time. People often ask me why I watch films like this and I say the same thing, if you’re going to do stupid go the whole nine yards. Do yourself a favor and skip whatever Hollywood’s version of funny is these days, fraternity movies with Actors/Actresses who are too old to be doing drugs, binge drinking and all that partying. Instead, If you’re going to watch something that’ll kill brain cells watch something that makes an impact whether that be good or bad.
My rating for “The Greasy Strangler” is 5/10