D: Jim Hosking / 93m
Cast: Michael St. Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo, Gil Gex, Joe David Walters, Abdoulaye NGom, Sam Dissanayake, Holland MacFallister, Mel Kohl
Big Ronnie (St. Michaels), an ex-disco entrepreneur back in the Seventies, lives with his middle-aged son, Big Brayden (Elobar). When they’re not bickering, they run a tour guide business where they show unsuspecting tourists various sites “supposedly” connected to the heyday of disco. Big Ronnie likes his food cooked in a lot of oil and grease, the oilier and greasier the better, because when he’s not chiding Big Brayden, or ripping off tourists, he’s the Greasy Strangler, a maniacal killer who has claimed several victims so far and whom the police are no nearer catching than when he started.
Big Ronnie and Big Brayden’s relationship is shaken up by the appearance of Janet (De Razzo). Much to Big Ronnie’s displeasure, Janet takes a shine to Big Brayden, and they begin dating. This makes Big Ronnie so angry that he claims more victims, including friends such as Oinker (Walters). Big Brayden begins to have his suspicions about the Greasy Strangler’s identity, and when Big Ronnie behaves “all smooth” and persuades Janet to be his girlfriend, the stage is set for a showdown between father and son, killer and self-appointed vigilante, that will (inevitably) change their lives forever – but not necessarily in a way that either could have foreseen.
Already being hailed as a cult favourite, and having a level of critical approval that most low-budget, indie horrors would themselves kill for, The Greasy Strangler is a funny, awful, side-splitting, appalling, blackly comic, dreadful movie that works very well in stretches but makes too much use of verbal and visual repetition to pad out its running time. Depending on your tolerance, conversations involving the phrase “bullshit artist” may prove to be annoying, as might seeing over and over again, Big Ronnie getting cleaned up in a car wash after a bout of killing as the Greasy Strangler. Co-writer/director Jim Hosking appears to be striving for some kind of banality here, a further example of the monotonous lives that Big Ronnie and Big Brayden live – they do little beyond the tours, eating together, and arguing – but it’s a device that soon wears out its welcome.
Alternatively, the movie is on firmer ground when it’s trying to be shocking and distasteful. Prosthetic penises and exploding eyeballs are the order of the day, and there’s a pleasing, sleazy Eighties vibe to it all (the special effects reflect the quality of the period). It’s also very funny in a “you shouldn’t really be laughing” kind of way, particularly in the ongoing war of attrition that makes for the relationship between Big Ronnie and Big Brayden; dysfunctional doesn’t even cover it. St. Michaels and Elobar are both excellent, pushing a number of physical and emotional boundaries in the script’s pursuit of ever more alienating content. Love ’em or want to get as far away from ’em as possible, Big Ronnie and Big Brayden are characters you won’t forget in a hurry, and the movie is on very firm ground when they’re on screen together.
Rating: 7/10 – a breath of welcome bad air in a year where few movies have dared to be different, The Greasy Strangler doesn’t always overcome its low-budget origins, but it does have a number of moments where the viewer will be thinking “No way“; bold in both tone and content, the movie never tries to be likeable or elicit sympathy for its lead characters, meaning it is what it is, and it’s entirely unapologetic about everything it depicts, which in this genre, is exactly what it should be doing.