Where to even begin? To say the buzz coming out of Sundance for Jim Hosking’s first feature debut was intriguing would be a huge understatement. Colorful descripting words like “depraved,” “stomach-churning,” and “filth,” just to name a few, piqued curiosities everywhere. While the reviews have been divisive, one thing is clear; reactions have been very strong in both directions. After catching a screening at SXSW it’s easy to see why the film has been so polarizing. Hosking has created a genre-defying, challenging feature.
His Los Angeles based tale follows Big Ronnie, a man who runs a disco walking tour with his man-child son Big Brayden. When an alluring woman takes the tour, an all-out competition between father and son for the woman’s attention ensues. It also happens to coincide with the appearance of an oily, greasy maniac who stalks the streets at night and strangles his victims.
If you’ve ever caught Hosking’s segment in ABCs of Death 2, “G is for Grandad,” then you already have some idea of what to expect when it comes to his off brand, absurdist humor. Now, dial that up to 11. It’s a consciously weird flick, and it’s downright disgusting.
Big Ronnie, played by Michael St. Michaels, is obsessed with grease. His food can never be greasy enough. There are various bottles and containers of the stuff throughout the house. His browbeaten son, played by Sky Elobar, still lives with him. Brayden is the naïve innocent to Ronnie’s angry skeptic. The pair often walk around the house in their underwear, giggling at their farts and calling each other bullshit artists. It’s a puerile type of humor that defines the comedic tone of the film and helps illustrate the co-dependency between father and son.
Enter Janet, played by Elizabeth De Razzo, the voluptuous vixen that inadvertently drives a wedge between Ronnie and Brayden. It’s a warped love triangle that sets up the central conflict, and boy is it icky. It’s also absurdly funny. The three central actors give their performances their all, which really sells the characters. Every bizarre quirk or gag, each actor fully commits. And there are some extremely bizarre, gross out gags.
The Greasy Strangler’s appearance himself is likely to induce the gag reflex. Covered head to toe in thick, greasy sludge, the titular maniac is also a fan of devouring the eye balls of his victims. To be honest, a lot more of the film than that is likely to make you queasy, but I’ll leave those discoveries for you. Though, if prosthetic penises, both large and small, offends you than beware: the penises hang free for most of the film. Expect a lot of nudity.
If I’m making this sound like some insane, absurd comical string of never ending infantile gags, well, it is and it isn’t. While the narrative does tend to meander a bit in the middle in favor of humor, and the gross out factor is huge, Hosking takes an honest, almost sweet approach to the father and son bond between Ronnie and Brayden. It’s this relationship that grounds the film amidst its eccentricities.
Hosking strikes up a strange balance of vile and sweet, funny and honest. It’s a film that doesn’t seem like it should work, but it does. Hosking intended to push the envelope as far as he could, so expect to be challenged. Aside from being grossed out, expect to be entertained and to laugh a lot. And expect to miss Brayden and Ronnie’s antics when the credits roll. This film has elements of horror, but it’s primarily a comedy and then some. Fans of the weird, this film is for you. Embrace it. Watch this with a crowd.
Just prior to SXSW, FilmRise acquired rights to The Greasy Strangler. No firm date has been set yet, but expect a limited theatrical and VOD release this fall.
The Greasy Strangler [SXSW Review]
Jom Hosking’s feature debut goes balls to the wall in complete absurdist, gross out humor. It’s fun, it’s icky, but it’s an absolute riot with a sweet yet dysfunctional familial relationship at the center.