Monster Fest Film Review: The Greasy Strangler (USA, 2016) is… undeniably original

Sometimes when you review movies, you’ll occasionally take something that you had no clue existed, and upon watching it, you’ll only be left with more questions. The Greasy Strangler is one of those movies. It’s the type of film that you tell your friends to watch, if only to have someone to go to therapy with.

Plots are important right? I should get to that before we move on. There is one, somewhere, bubbling away and offering much more depth than than the films repulsive imagery would have you believe.

Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels) lives with his son Big Brayden (Sky Elobar). The two of them run a disco tour in their small town. When Brayden meets a girl named  Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo) on one of these tours, it drives a wedge between father and son and soon becomes a love triangle. Oh and Big Ronnie lathers himself in grease and murders people. Probably… probably should have led with that.

It isn’t just the title being a literal plot point of the film that makes it so bizarre though. It’s the aesthetic more than anything. Although it’s produced well, it’s intentionally ugly. From their shitty house to absurd clothing, Big Ronnie’s hair and drab sets, director Jim Hosking has gone above and beyond to make something so visually unappealing. Of course this is all just rounds out the very obvious moments of unease included but not limited to: male and female full frontal nudity – which consists of Janet’s ridiculously large bush, Big Ronnie’s stupidly large penis and Brayden’s utterly tiny one – are presented in abundance; numerous sex scenes that abolish any sense of sexiness and flattery that Hollywood has conditioned us to expect; and of course the films unhealthy obsession with grease, be it lathered on Big Ronnie or poured on his food.

The most insane thing about The Greasy Strangler though is that I can’t stop thinking about it. In an industry where billion dollar production companies dole out huge budgets for forgettable action films, it’s an independent flick about a less than heartwarming love triangle and a near superfluous plot about a guy who bathes himself in grease that has crawled into my brain and refuses to be evicted.

It’s almost infuriating. Two days later and I’m quoting it’s awful dialogue and humming its electro-transition music. Lines are repeated ad nauseum and scenes are drawn out in order to increase their comedic effect. You’ll never hear the phrase “bullshit artist” the same way again. But there is something almost endearing about it. It’s Napoleon Dynamite if they were given an Adults Only hour and it’s hard not to laugh even if there is a vigorous head shake accompanying it.

The Greasy Strangler is dubbed as a horror film but anything that remotely resembles that is too ridiculous or short-lived to give that genre top-billing. In fact I don’t know what the hell The Greasy Strangler is about and I’m growing more confused writing about it. There is an incoherent narrative at play that feels like it’s been hurriedly pieced together like a toddler doing a jigsaw puzzle. Nothing really fits but everything in between was enough to get you to the end.

I watched the The Greasy Strangler again with friends a day after I watched it on my own, and through all the bewildered looks in my direction and expressions of shock, there was laughter. Genuine laughter. And maybe this was the point. Does a movie get a pass for its undeniable originality even if it’s a steaming pile of shit? You be the judge. All I know is that The Greasy Strangler is now a permanent, vile,  fixture in my memory and whether that’s good or bad is irrelevant. “Hootie-Tootie-Disco-Cutie” has now entered the lexicon of a small circle of friends and I don’t know, maybe that’s a win.

Film Review: ONE STAR (OUT OF FIVE)

The Greasy Strangler screened as the closing film of Monster Fest in Melbourne over the weekend. It’s touring Australia this week. For more details head HERE.

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