Fantastic Fest Review: THE GREASY STRANGLER (Jim Hosking, 2016)
No. Just- No. Wait. Let me back up. Have you been in a situation where someone makes a joke everyone finds HIGH-LARIOUS, but you know in your heart it just isn’t funny? Or a joke that starts out funny but goes on way, way too long? Jim Hosking’s THE GREASY STRANGLER is like that: a microcosm of weirdbeard characters caught between the minutiae of daily routine and a series of lunatic events that will irrevocably upend their lives, particularly those of Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels) and Brayden (Sky Elobar), a father and son making the most of a shared tour-guide business by day and dual-bachelor existence under one roof at night.
So. Let’s talk about the grease. The grease makes itself known in a number of ways, but let’s stick to the eatin’-grease, which is as unpalatable as it sounds- and I watched all six-and-a-half hours of Matthew Barney’s CREMATION CYCLE, so I know from whence I speak. Icky poo-poo. Consider yourself warned.
Despite his bawdy bravado, Dad’s freewheeling, just-a-gigolo ways are alien to Brayden, a shy-boy late bloomer seeking true love. But when both men’s fancy falls upon neighborhood sexpot Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo), their previous objectionable-but-innocuous bickering morphs into mean-spirited rivalry.
And oh, have I mentioned the nightly murders? Yeah, there’s some kind of killer about, sparking not so much fear as low-level perturbation, inspiring the neighborhood locals into Scooby-Gang-level plots to uncover the homicidal maniac, who just happens to leave a mysterious, gloppy goo in his lethal wake. Could it be someone they know? The hell you say!
I was hopeful in the first 30 minutes of STRANGLER, getting enough of a PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE-meets-PINK-FLAMINGOS vibe to disregard the goop in favor of satire…or broad gross-out comedy…or something that would at least hold attention for its scant 93 minutes of runtime. Sadly, it’s not that the joke got lost on me…the entire setup just got lost, kicking anything potentially sublime in the private-parts and barreling whole-hog toward the ridiculous, not caring if anyone else went along for the ride.
To be fair, there is an audience fanbase for STRANGLER, as evidenced by a vocal group of Sundance early-adopters who claim it’s exactly the kind of (literally) balls-out insane movie that filmmakers shy from and festivals don’t embrace, making it a new benchmark that harkens back to the days of Troma films, recklessly escalating its freakish grotesqueries with each new scene.
I dunno, man. I’m not typically a Squirmy Sally, and likely could have abided the mess if I’d cared about any of the characters. But for me, STRANGLER was just a slop-bucket wallow no amount of hand-sanitizer could wipe away.
MOVIE MOMENT: Too bad more people don’t shout “Bullshit artist!” in regular conversation.
REEL RATING: 1/4