You probably won’t see The Greasy Strangler. I guess the polite way to say it would be “The Greasy Strangler is not for everyone.” But the reality is that it’s for hardly anyone at all. Most of you will be better off without The Greasy Strangler in your lives, I think. But for fans of Tim and Eric, Quentin Dupieux, or Eric Andre, this absurdist horror-comedy is something you absolutely must see.
The movie stars Michael St. Michaels (The Video Dead) and Sky Elobar (Lady Dynamite) as Big Ronnie and Big Brayden. This father-son team spends their days hosting disco-themed walking tours around town. Their business is a sham, though, and their customers know it.
But at night, Ronnie smears himself with grease and strangles anyone who gets in his way. Meanwhile, Brayden falls for a Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo), a disco cutie who also has eyes for Ronnie. This creates a rift between father and son, who must work out their problems while the Greasy Strangler gets ever closer.
Writer and director Jim Hosking (ABCs of Death 2) has crafted a blast of weirdness from another dimension. Placing this flick in a clearly labeled box is impossible. It’s not so-bad-its-good, or some disingenuous attempt to engineer that. Hosking knows how to create images that shock you with horror and discomforting comedy. Sure, it’s weird, but The Greasy Strangler feels honest. Like punk rock, it’s an attempt to move you outside your comfort zone — to gross you out and piss you off.
And it does a pretty admirable job at that. Verbal jokes (if you can call them jokes) stretch to lengths that far exceed uncomfortable. The Guardian called the movie “relentlessly inane,” which is entirely fair. I mentioned earlier that this is for the Adult Swim crowd, but it lacks the manic energy of most Adult Swim’s programming. Luckily, the movie has an energy that is wholly unique.
Hosking punctuates his run-on jokes with bursts of uproarious cartoon violence. I just had to rewatch a scene where The Strangler punches a man so hard his face dents inward like a deflated basketball. Oh, and I mustn’t forget the nudity — Ronnie and Brayden spend much (if not most of the film) in states of undress. The movie is not shy about the mundanity, humor, and horror of human bodies.
Speaking of horror, there are moments here that will make your skin crawl. And much of it is thanks to Michael St. Michaels, who is perfect as Big Ronnie. His performance is remarkably creepy, even in the subtlety of his movements. There’s a scene in the film where he speaks to his reflection in a mirror that gave me goosebumps. So it’s clear that Hosking directed to his cast’s strengths here.
And he’s playing to his own strengths, too. The camera work and lighting in The Greasy Strangler are uncharacteristically moody for something that feels so raw. The editing, even in scenes that are purposefully overlong, always serves the humor of the movie. This is Hosking’s first feature, and his direction is surprisingly assured.
All that said, can I recommend the film? Yes, but only to a very narrow audience. But if any of this sounds like your cup of grease, I urge you to check out The Greasy Strangler. You can rent it in the US and UK on iTunes, Amazon, and other major VOD platforms.