J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Sundance ‘16: The Greasy Strangler

It is a SpectreVision production, but it would not be surprising if the American Heart Association were secretly involved. After watching all the gelatinous grease ooze across the screen, viewers are likely to opt for nothing but raw vegetables for the rest of the year. For gross-out reasons, a serial killer slathers his food in grease and lathers his entire body up in oily fat before going out on the prowl. You would think his fingers would slide off victims’ necks, but somehow he manages to rack up a ridiculous body count in Jim Hosking’s The Greasy Strangler, which quickly achieved infamy at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

Big Ronnie is constantly bullying his socially maladjusted son Big Brayden, particularly regarding his supposed insufficient use of grease when cooking. Somewhere in the back of Big Brayden’s tiny mind, he sort of suspects his father might be the notorious Greasy Strangler, perhaps because Big Ronnie periodically feels compelled to deny it, for no apparent reason.

Somehow Big Ronnie and Big Brayden make ends meet by conducting cut-rate bait-and-switch historic disco tours. Big Ronnie still likes to go out clubbing decking out in a leisure suit with a strategic hole in the crotch to reveal his laughably long member. Do not get the wrong idea. It’s sickly yellow color cannot be all that enticing to reasonably healthy women, but it certainly intimidates his son. Poor Big Brayden is not exactly a chip of the old block in the respect, as we see only too well. Nevertheless, the vaguely Jeffrey Tambor-looking man-child somehow starts dating a former tour patron, but the loathsome Big Ronnie is determined to steal her for himself.

Yes, you have a whole lot of grease and prosthetic junk in Strangler, but that’s about it. Frankly, it represents all the worst instincts of midnight movies. Basically, Hosking just keeps beating the same couple of jokes into the ground like a pile-driver. A lot of people at midnight screenings probably convinced themselves they enjoyed it. Obviously, that is the only suitable venue for a film like this. When buoyed-up by the crowd, you might start laughing at Hosking’s sheer gall and your own endurance for its conspicuous crappiness, but that is a pathetically cheap way to get over.

Strangler makes John Waters look tasteful, Troma look sophisticated, and Ed Wood look accomplished. It is also literally review-proof, as evidenced by the ironic trumpeting of Strangler’s withering trade reviews. Regardless, all Strangler leaves behind are some unpleasant grease-stains (and a cool one-sheet). Consider yourself warned as The Greasy Strangler continues to build on its notoriety following its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

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