Ginger Nuts of Horror
Come on in, the water's greasy...
The Greasy Strangler (2016)
Dir. Jim Hosking, USA, 93 mins
It's not uncommon that I get requests for reviews here at Film Gutter, but if there is one that has come up time and time again it has to be this one. Many a conversation has strayed to the topic of this movie with a refrain of 'Oh, it'd be perfect for Film Gutter!' It's of course been a movie I was aware of upon its release, especially given some of the names attached as producers – Elijah Wood and Ben Wheatley both supported this one to its 2016 release. It's even brought to us by a British director in Jim Hosking, so there's simply no excuse for putting this one off any further. By popular demand it's time to look at The Greasy Strangler.
The story follows an elderly father and son duo, with dad 'Big Ronnie' allowing his son Braydon to live with him. The two are deeply interested in disco and run pretty dubious tours around the city concerning the history of disco, most of which sound like total BS. In fact 'bullshit artist' is basically this movie's catchphrase. It's fun, though – it works as you watch it through. But there's about to be tension between them as a love interest, Janet, emerges on to the scene. She's immediately taken with Braydon – for reasons that are never entirely clear to me – and what ensues is a strange sort of menage a trois.
Oh yeah, and did I mention there's a killer roaming the streets? That's right, The Greasy Strangler has been out there strangling and killing those that cross him. I would say if grease or oil freaks you out then you'd better skip this movie, because there's plenty of it here. It's no secret that Big Ronnie is The Greasy Strangler – that's more than evident in the first killing – but it takes rather longer for Braydon to cotton on that his grease-living dad might be a serial killer. This all plays out while Janet falls in love with Braydon, then falls for Big Ronnie, before finally falling back in love with Braydon again.
The good in this movie comes in no small part from its weird, off-beat nature. It has cult favourite written all over it from the very get go. The humour is quirky and weird, the characters are awkward, the dialogue is exaggerated and the whole thing has this gross quality to it that will leave you cringing more than once. It's a unique experience, that's for certain, and no doubts at all it's played for laughs, a sort of homage to the horror comedies of the 80s – it has that look and feel to it to boot.
Now I wanted to love this movie. Just ten minutes in I thought 'I am going to love this movie.' But as it wore on I found myself liking it but certainly not loving it. The storyline is pretty meandering, some scenes don't really achieve anything – and I know it's more of a comedy but things can still be moved along without resorting to comedy 'filler' – and for me the quirky sense of humour does start to wear thin the longer we get into the movie. It doesn't feel like it has enough fresh ideas to sustain the length of movie it is – I wondered to myself if trimming 15 minutes off this might have been a good idea just to tighten it up a bit.
So yes, I liked it, but it wasn't quite the earth-shattering movie I had been reassured it would be for me. It's interesting, it's unusual and there are a fair few chuckles as you go along. But equally I felt like it was too much of the same thing as you went along, and the layers on layers of bodily function humour just started to feel a bit tired. The finale is unexpected – I think that's the best word for it – and will certainly take a bit of figuring out as well. It's a decent enough way to while away 90 minutes, and it's apparent that lots of people have loved this movie but equally it has been kind of polarising in terms of opinion. I'm afraid I'm basically going to fall slap-bang in the middle of those two schools of thought.
RATING: 6/10. The Greasy Strangler was OK, ultimately. There's some fun to be had with it, but it feels a bit thin for a feature film and I felt like it could have done with some judicious editing. There are funny moments, and surreal moments, and gross-out moments, but despite all that being true I still found it didn't really grab and hold my attention throughout. Plenty of points for originality but less point for execution, so on reflection an above-average 6/10 seems far.