I imagine The Greasy Strangler to be the product of teens who have watched too many Tim & Eric episodes and discussed what a horror film would look like with their sensibilities. There’s about four jokes which are repeated endlessly throughout the film, which would make for (maybe) a decent short film, but at 80 minutes, I was begging for the film to just end. I don’t think I’ve ever exited a film so fast in my life.
I must acknowledge the dedication of first-time director Jim Hosking; he certainly made the film he wanted to. Not once does he break from his warped absurdity. The film will have its followers, sure. Those who say it’s a work of brilliance and I simply didn’t get it. There might be a slight chance they’re correct. But when the film subjects its audience to a half dozen moments of a fully nude older man walking through a car wash to cleanse himself of his grease suit, I can’t help but argue against this empty, vile film.
Big Ronnie (Michael S. Michaels) and his son Brayden (Sky Elobar) run a “disco tour” business,. Wearing matching garish pink shorts and sweaters, they roam the city with customers, delivering false facts, such as “Earth Wind and Fire used to live here” while standing outside crumbling buildings. Also on the tour: buildings where Bee-Gees wrote their hits and the now-closed store where Kool from Kool and the Gang worked.
The concept is funnier than the execution.
At night, however, Big Ronnie drenches himself in grease and strangles people to death (thus the title). Some are clients from earlier in the day. Some are friends. Sometimes the victim’s eyes will pop out and if Big Ronnie feels like it, he’ll eat them. There’s no insight into his character, no real motivation. It’s just so that you can be pushed to your limit, to test how much you can take.
There’s something resembling a plot that begins to form halfway through the film. When Brayden begins dating a client, Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo, game for anything, apparently), Big Ronnie becomes jealous, and a love triangle begins. Brayden suspects that his father might be the greasy strangler, but that’s sort of forgotten about until the final few moments of the film.
In between the kills (one which ends with Big Ronnie sticking his finger in a severed nose), there’s a barrage of vain, inconsequential nonsense, including a scene where an Indian man with a lisp is trying to pronounce “potato,” a moment where a hot dog vendor endlessly discusses losing his license, prolonged moments where father and son call each other “bullshit artists,” and a merciless dance of Big Ronnie and Janet, both nude, singing “Hootie-tootie, disco cutie” for so long you’ll agree to accept death if it means escaping this torture.
“Greasy Strangler” wants so much to be embraced by the cult crowd but isn’t willing to do the work to get there. It’s a one-trick pony that feels eternal, dragged out to an unwatchable extreme. Even the audience at opening night rejected it. People all around me were yawning, falling asleep, and past the thirty minute mark, the laughs slowly became groans. These people knew what type of film they were walking into, and were ready to fall in love with a new gross-out classic. When it ended, we all just shuffled out in silence.
Before the film, the director said a couple words, and one of the statements included his difficulty to describe the film to people. I believe I can help him with that. One can simply say that it’s a waste of your viewing time.