Starring: Michael St. Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo
Director: Jim Hosking
It’s pleasing that film still retains the ability to surprise. In a society becoming ever more constructed by music listening big data algorithms, Facebook likes and think tanks, it is wonderfully refreshing to experience something so utterly bizarre and rule-breaking that it makes YouTube and Spotify whimper into their recommendation formulae. Jim Hosking’s first full length outing is exactly that; an absolute rollercoaster of filth, depravity and sickening amounts of sausage fat. Colin Firth and Gal Gadot need not apply.
Angry sociopath Big Ronnie (St Michaels) and his son Big Brayden (Elobar) run a disco tour of LA, exhibiting the apartment in which Earth, Wind and Fire supposedly lived together and the doorstep the Bee Gees came up with Stayin Alive when waiting for a bus. When Braydon falls instantly in love with Janet (De Razzo), one of their customers, Ronnie becomes uncontrollably jealous of his son’s new found happiness and decides he wants some of the action, wooing Janet into his own arms. The love triangle sets itself against the background of a mysterious nocturnal serial murderer called The Greasy Strangler, a killer who Ronnie repeatedly professes that he is most definitely not.
For all its disturbing prosthetic genitalia, exploding eyeballs and sickening grease lathered crockery, the art of The Greasy Strangler’s grotesque nature is in its environment. Every detail is disquieting; each miniscule element perplexes the perception of normality. The deserted setting of run-down LA is mildly recognisable yet equally alien, with interiors which burst with unctuous 80s patterns reminiscent of a Saw-based Only Fools and Horses holiday special. Costumes come straight from the set of a low budget Saturday Night Fever porn parody. There is not a single ugly or ludicrous detail which doesn’t distort the sense’s concept of reality. Nightmarish is an overused adjective in art yet Hoskins gets as close to random subconscious freakishness as is possible without resorting to high strength LSD. How he can make a mans repeated mispronunciation of ‘potato’ so captivating, or two grown men shouting ‘Bullshit artist’ at each other for almost three minutes while dressed in pink sequinned mini-dresses so funny, is nothing short of astonishing.
St. Michaels’s threadbare acting CV will come as a surprise after experiencing his natural ability to pull off such a wonderfully monstrous performance as Big Ronnie. His vicious self-gratification and unqualified jealously bring about images of never seen before post watershed old man Steptoe footage. De Razzo’s nonchalant switching between father and son lovers and Elobar’s sixth form pseudo-Shakespearian pathos are riveting, and all three deserve big credit for allowing Hosking to film them in such a variety of uncompromisingly unpleasant situations.
In a comparable biosphere to which fellow oddity The League of Gentlemen successfully situated itself, The Greasy Strangler exists purely in its own anomalous universe. There are intentionally no extras here. Every character on screen is put there for a specific and significant purpose (admittedly mainly to be murdered) and there is no escape from the terrible inevitability of their being nor deadly consequences of their actions. There is not a single moment where it’s conceivable for Ronnie and Brydon to live anywhere other than with each other; repeated scenes and looped replayed footage nail this into the microcosmic ecosystem of the films existence.
It is perhaps a rather large understatement to say that The Greasy Strangler will not be everybody’s cup of tea. However, it’s not just the ostentatious gross-out it initially appears to be. Hosking has injected a really sense of love and fun into his first feature length film, the script is sharp and the casting unfathomably perfect. If true art is to challenge and spark discussion, then The Greasy Strangler deserves to be up with the best, and certainly most interesting, of 2016s releases so far.
8 / 10