Exploding eyeballs, goop-slathered serial killers, nonsense jokes that go on five minutes at a time... The Greasy Strangler makes no apologies for its bad behaviour, emerging as one of the boldest, weirdest and most outrageously entertaining films at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. It's a film that strives to turn audiences off (despite its numerous shagathons), and between the stomach-churning scenes of grease-laden food stuffs, and frequent full-frontal nudity, it's easy to see why many Sundance attendees fled screenings in a tizz.
If you have a steely disposition and an appreciation for the absurd, though, you'll be rewarded. The brainchild of debut director Jim Hosking, The Greasy Strangler centres on the love-hate relationship between frizzy-haired pensioner Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels) and his dim-witted son Big Brayden (Sky Elobar). Decked out in tights and pink turtle necks, they make a living hosting walking disco tours in Los Angeles, dishing out questionable trivia about their locations of choice.
It's clear these two aren't your typical movie heroes and, sure enough, it quickly becomes clear that Ronnie is the titular psychopath, a nocturnal frightmare who butchers anybody who crosses him (and yes, he's covered in grease whenever he's hunting). Ronnie and Brayden's interactions form the main throughline in the increasingly crackers plot, spouting quotably daft dialogue (“I call bullshit on that!”), but Hosking has most fun unleashing his killer in cartoonishly gruesome kill scenes that look like something out of Looney Tunes (smooshed faces and torn off noses).
That they're always followed by Ronnie hitting the local car wash to rid himself of his greasy second skin is just one of the many recurring gags that elicits fits of childish giggling. But when Brayden somehow bags himself a girlfriend in the form of understanding Janet (played by the admirably gung-ho Elizabeth De Razzo, who deserves a medal for the things she's subjected to in the film), he invokes his father's jealousy, and a war for Janet's heart ensues.
Produced by Elijah Wood's genre house SpectreVision (with Rook Films and Timpson Films), The Greasy Strangler is easily the production company's most outrageous offering to date (previous releases include Open Windows, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night and Cooties). Having little in common with its production house siblings, the film resembles something John Waters might dream after dining on too much dairy. Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble are clear tonal touchstones, as are grubby '80s horrors like Basket Case and Maniac Cop.
While Elobar neatly balances Brayden's inherent sweetness and stupidity, the standout here is 72-year-old Michael St. Michaels, who is frequently butt naked, often equipped with a giant prosthetic penis that takes Shame to task. Stealing every scene he's in, he glues the entire barmy thing together – and just when you think the film's about to run out of steam, he turns up as another character and sends the hysteria scale soaring.
Make no mistake, though, this isn't fit for mainstream consumption. The magic of The Greasy Strangler is that it knows it's a crapfest. It's totally in control of its bizarre world, where everybody's name is prefixed with 'Big', and it rejoices in the ridiculous. I defy anybody not to adopt its numerous catchphrases (“Bullshit artist!” is crying out for use in our office), and though it's unlikely I'd go back for a second watch, the impression it leaves is indelible. A ready-made cult classic just begging to slay the midnight crowd.