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The Greasy Strangler – Review


Release Date: 3 June 2016
Director: Jim Hosking
Writer: Jim Hosking - Toby Harvard
Cast: Michael St. Michaels - Sky Elobar - Elizabeth De Razzo



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Posted June 8, 2016 by

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The Greasy Strangler Review:

From The Sundance Film Festival, London.

The Greasy Strangler’ isn’t just a film that will divide audiences. It could end friendships, start fights and cut evenings short – possibly all at once. I had the worst 09:00am morning screening of my reviewing career. It is not a morning movie, rather destined instead for late night cult classic-dom. It made Troma films seem tasteful.

Its 90% approval rating on a certain fading fruit website belies a fallacy. The audience members who truly hate it (hand raised) don’t rate movies there. Any dissent from my kin might be shouted down with a chorus of ‘hootie, tootie, disco cutie’ which you will understand should you be (un)fortunate to catch this cinematic rash.

You won’t have heard of anyone in it, but I would contend that these are porn star names – first pet and the place where you were born. Do I really think Michael St Michaels is a real name? Not when the guy looks like New York Dolls’ David Johansen. Johansen has used a pseudonym before (Buster Poindexter). He has acted in horror movies (‘Tales from the Darkside’). This sleaze fest is right up his alley. That said, St. Michaels has an imdb page – he’s 72 years old. Whoever he is, he sure hasn’t grown old gracefully.

Although as American as toxic waste, ‘The Greasy Strangler’ is effluvia from the fevered mind of Jim Hosking, a British director responsible for one letter in ‘ABCs of Death 2’, an anthology film that perhaps have used a different alphabet for the sequel. (What about Cyrillic?) He is a Sundance Film Festival veteran with his short film, ‘Renegades’. Somehow he decided that an abusive father-son relationship where dad Ronnie (St. Michaels) wanders round naked with a huge penis pointing downwards like something to be used in ‘At the Earth’s Core’ belittling his adult son Braydon (Sky Elobar) for being a virgin was entertainment. Braydon has the tiniest male genitalia you are likely to see – chicken genitalia, genitalia exposed to a shrink ray.

Ronnie and Braydon have gainful employment. In matching pink tops and pink shorts they conduct disco tours. Ronnie likes to tell the story about how he had a night on the town with Michael Jackson, but as Braydon explains Michael Jackson was really a male prostitute who died. R and B’s tour is wildly improbable: they stand at a disused building and claim ‘Night Fever’ was recorded there. ‘Can you verify this?’ says one tourist. Tourists are wildly improbable for such a desolate location – a strip that is already unpeeled. ‘The brochure said we would get free drinks,’ says another. ‘No free drinks.’ ‘Free drinks! Free drinks.’ After a hopeless protest, three of the tourists shuffle away leaving a fourth, Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo) to talk to Braydon. She is black, with a frizzy 1970s hairdo, overweight but a terrific smile. Braydon wants to go on a date with her. Ronnie, who constantly threatens him with eviction, gets jealous.

The aesthetic might remind you of a Jim Jarmusch film. The acting is atonal, the dialogue repetitive. ‘I bet you think I’m the Greasy Strangler,’ Ronnie curses Braydon early on. ‘I’m the Greasy Strangler.’ Pause. ‘I’m not the Greasy Strangler.’ The dialogue is full of deadpan reversals. If you like watching people park cars (so to speak) through their delivery, be my guest.

Just how long can you look at an exposed downward-pointing penis? I suppose you can build up a tolerance. Ronnie is in fact the Greasy Strangler – not a spoiler. He kills the three tourists as they experience difficulty outside a motel vending machine. The deaths are comically exaggerated. Eyes pop out, but there’s little blood.

How tedious is the comedy? An Indian man mispronounces the word potato. ‘Please tell me what these chips are made of?’ a Senegalese man asks him. The Indian Man is incoherent. The question is asked again, eliciting an incoherent response. And again! And again! The attack relieves the tedium, which you suspect is part of the point.

Braydon is a pathetic anti-hero who writes really bad fantasy fiction in which the hero is the one with the largest amulet. His mother left his father for Ricky Prickles, a man with a six pack, Braydon tells Janet over dinner. Janet is the film’s only almost normal character, though even she has her limits.

Ronnie likes his food greasy. We are grossed out every time he eats. He covers himself in grease each time he attacks others, and cleans himself by stepping into a car wash. He takes the blind man who runs it disco dancing. The disco is only filled by three old people, one of whom, after standing still for the longest, dips his body suggestively behind Ronnie. At a certain point Braydon suspects his father is the Greasy Strangler but then his father dresses up in extra long fingernails and a fake grey moustache – a rat’s carpet – to disabuse him.

I’m sure sensory deprivation for 90 minutes would be preferably to this film with its childish chanting and frequent bursts of ‘bullshit artist’. The aesthetic may also remind you of 1970s horror films like ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ (Wes Craven original). Elijah Wood, Master Frodo himself, produced it. He also supported ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ which was also an exercise in retro-horror style, though more serious.

It is definitely out there, but after failing to laugh, I found the film was an endurance test, a Japanese game show made with an American cast. It has horror movie pacing – an attack every fifteen minutes – and an ending in which the drama leaves town (thank heavens). The Greasy Strangler himself may remind you of Swamp Thing (another Wes Craven film, less well thought of) or The Toxic Avenger. Lloyd Kaufman (Troma supremo) should feel flattered.


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Larry Oliver
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