The Greasy Strangler – Review (*** 1/2)

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I have probably forgotten about more fucked up films I’ve seen in my 28 years than most people have ever even watched, so it’s hard to be shocked by much these days. The Greasy Strangler, the feature debut of writer-director Jim Hosking, provoked an extremely rare, fascinatingly potent feeling in me, though; utter, skin-crawling, stomach-wrenching disgust. I immediately wanted a shower, and once I was in the shower, I immediately wanted to scrub a layer of skin off.

Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels) and his son Brayden (Sky Elobar) eke out a depressing existence providing walking tours describing their sleepy town’s apparent Disco heritage, wearing matching pink uniforms while doing so, of course. Their dynamic is upset, however, with the arrival of a “sexy” woman named Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo) who immediately dives a wedge between them. This is without even acknowledging the presence of an oily serial killer doing the rounds, known as The Greasy Strangler.

There are hundreds of valid reasons why someone would not like this film; it’s puerile beyond any good reason, jokes frequently drag on uncomfortably long, and one could argue it’s simply trying too hard to be weird and offensive. That said, Hosking does offer up one of the most uniquely discomforting movie experiences of the last few years, at once deeply unnerving and also darkly hilarious.

With sights that range from food unsavorily fried in a disgusting excess of oil to gratuitous, unsightly nudity (including grossly mis-sized genitalia) and brutal murder, The Greasy Strangler is to an extent an exercise in audience chastisement, a provocation to see how much they can withstand. It’s not so much the out-and-out explicit nature of the movie that makes it so difficult not to view through splayed fingers, but rather the more subdued unpleasantness that oozes out of every frame.

It’s not fucked up in the same way that, say, A Serbian Film or The Human Centipede movies are. There’s shock value here for sure, but that it’s actually in the service of fascinating characters and an hysterically oppressive setting makes it add up to something much more substantial and interesting. The performances from the central trio are beguilingly committed, and without such a gung-ho approach to their collective, brutal on-screen humiliation, the end product surely wouldn’t be so brilliantly galling.

Pretty much destined to become a regular fixture on the midnight movie circuit in the coming years, this earmarks Hosking as a sure talent to watch, assuming of course the success of his intensely baffling, compulsively engrossing feature debut doesn’t reveal him to be a one-trick pony.

*** 1/2

The Greasy Strangler is available now on VOD

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