Monday, October 17, 2016

THE GREASY STRANGLER


Hailed as "The Weirdest Film of the Year" by several critics who must not have seen Guy Maddin's THE FORBIDDEN ROOM, Director Jim Hosking's debut feature THE GREASY STRANGLER is still a strange one: part horror, part comedy, and all bizarro. The easiest way to describe this is PINK FLAMINGOS meets SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER on the set of POULTRYGEIST. This will either scare you away or grab your attention like few other films out there.

Michael St. Michaels (some might remember him from the 1987 gem THE VIDEO DEAD) stars as Big Ronny, who both lives and works with his son Big Brayden (a fantastic Sky Elobar, who you may have seen on an episode of CONAN O'BRIEN). By night they eat greasy sausages and walk around the house in their underwear, farting every chance they get, and by day they run a walking "disco tours" business where they bring patrons to different L.A. sites as Ronny delivers trivia. Of course it's all BS, and most of what he has to say is hilarious, especially one comment about the band Earth, Wind, and Fire. They both dress in pink tops and shorts, and every tourist in the film is wonderfully strange, especially Janet, who falls for Brayden and is then stalked by Ronny. Janet is played by Elizabeth De Razzo (from the TV series IDIOTSITTER) in an absolutely ballsy performance. Janet is among the first group of tourists we meet, which includes three others in a politically incorrect sequence that was refreshing to see in a modern film.


At night, people are being strangled to death by a man who is covered head to toe in grease, and Brayden eventually decides to find out who it is. Big Ronny IS The Greasy Strangler, and when he isn't choking his daytime clients or hot dog vendors, he's busy disco dancing with his blind pal Big Paul (played by Gil Gex). Big Paul also runs a car wash where Ronny cleans himself off after he strangles people. Oh yeah...Ronny also likes to pop out his victim's eyeballs and saute them in a frying pan full of--you guessed it--extra grease.

THE GREASY STRANGLER has the aura of a classic John Waters film, with a touch of Troma films-type toilet humor. Unfortunately, a bit TOO much toilet humor, which the film didn't need to be as funny or strange as it is. Fart jokes get old fast, and they wear their welcome out here, but the rest of the insane goings-on should keep any lover of weird cinema's interest enough to overlook all the flatulence. (Note to makers of bizarro films and books: PLEASE cut it with the poop/fart jokes already! It wasn't too funny ten years ago in POULTRYGEIST and it isn't much funnier now).


Big Ronny is a genuine creep, from the way he stares at his son (and Janet) as he scolds them, to his old man dance moves at the disco. His love for greasy food is beyond obsessive, despite his son's warnings to tone it down ("I read it's bad for your cholesterol in a magazine I found on the bus"). He's an instant cult film icon, yet despite this, I found myself more fond of Brayden. He's a beer-bellied, turtle neck wearing, balding yet long-haired geek who is busy writing the great American novel when not spending time worrying his father will steal away Janet. He loves his father and cooks for him daily despite constantly being yelled at. He wears glasses that seem to have been stolen from an elderly diner waitress, and he has a sleazy way about him that brings Raymond Marble from PINK FLAMINGOS to mind.

In the end, Brayden discovers he not only can't live without his father, but he is destined to become just like him.

THE GREASY STRANGLER's first 30 minutes are hilarious. We're thrown into a surreal version of L.A. and are entranced by the strange people inhabiting it. The film then loses its pace for a bit, but (director) Hosking manages to keep you from drifting by introducing another outrageous situation just when you think the film's about to fall. It doesn't. Ronny and Brayden are two misfit low lives that we somehow cheer for. We laugh at their constant bickering and repetitive arguing. And when we see what becomes of Janet, we're somehow happy how things turn out.

Unlike films that attempt to be "cult films," THE GREASY STRANGLER actually is one, and it will surprise me if it doesn't find a dedicated midnight audience (or at least a strong following on video).

Major kudos go to Andrew Hung, who has created a wonderful soundtrack that sounds like an old Atari video game has exploded and taken on a life of its own. The music is weird, quirky, catchy and fits this project to the tee.


It's never explained just why Ronnie submerges himself in a 55 gallon drum full of grease before he kills, and in a way we really don't care. Like classic John Waters and Ed Wood films, we're so fascinated by the cast that the plot becomes unimportant. We just wait for weird things to happen, and when they do, we're onboard. There are some incredibly uncomfortable sex scenes, and the endless shots of Ronnie walking around with his long penis flopping about (I was glad to read this was a prosthetic) not to mention Brayden with his exposed teeny weenie just about guarantees the film will not see an uncut (full pun intended) cable TV run anytime soon.

THE GREASY STRANGLER will make you feel dirty, but you'll laugh anyway and probably hate yourself in the morning for liking it so much. I'm looking forward to a second viewing...

-Nick Cato