Sundance Film Review: ‘The Greasy Strangler’

An exercise in juvenile scatology that's almost awesomely pure in its numbing, repetitious determination to annoy.

Greasy Strangler Sundance 2016
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

Most years the Sundance Film Festival programs one or two movies (usually in the Midnight section) that primarily appeal to the 13-year-old stoner male most viewers will be glad they no longer are or never were. Unlikely to be trumped in that department this year is “The Greasy Strangler,” an exercise in juvenile scatology that’s almost awesomely pure in its numbing, repetitious determination to annoy. Somebody, somewhere out there, is likely to find these 93 minutes funny rather than watching-regurgitation-dry tedious. But they will most likely discover it in niche home-format release; a few further midnight fest slots aside, big-screen chances are remote.

Middle-aged schlub Brayden (Sky Elobar) lives with his cantankerous father, Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels). Together they run the family business, leading “Disco Tours” of nondescript sites that boogie kings of yesteryear allegedly once visited. Ronnie likes his food swimming in grease — and despite his unasked-for frequent denials, is clearly the titular fiend who runs around killing people while covered in fat and oil. When hapless Brayden somehow attracts the romantic interest of tour-goer Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo), Dad becomes jealously competitive for her attentions. Meanwhile the father and son’s few clients and acquaintances keep falling victim to greasy deaths, leading Breydan to suspect the obvious.

The film’s range of humor is fully disclosed within the first few minutes, and it quite insistently repeats them ad nauseum: unappealing nudity, closeups of unappetizing food, men dressed in tacky retro women’s clothing, childishly crude dialogue, deliberately cheesy gore f/x. The result will efficiently clear a room of those inclined toward taking offense, while leaving most others bored. Comparisons can be drawn to John Waters and Harmony Korine, among others, but they do not flatter “The Greasy Strangler.”

The performers gamely dedicate themselves to their own humiliation, and hopefully were well compensated. In contrast to the general infantilism of its outre bad-taste content, the feature is reasonably crafted in tech and design aspects, with careful attention to garish detail in costume and production design, while Marten Tedin’s lensing is a few notches better than the film deserves. On the other hand, Andrew Hung’s dweezly, Residents-influenced score underlines a sense of absurdism that stubbornly remains on the peepee/caca level.

Sundance Film Review: ‘The Greasy Strangler’

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Midnight), Jan. 23, 2016. Running time: 93 MIN.

  • Production: A Drafthouse Films and SpectreVision presentation of a Rook Films and Timpson Films production. (International sales: CAA, Los Angeles.) Produced by Elijah Wood, Tim League, Ant Timpson, Andy Starke, Josh Waller, Daniel Noah.
  • Crew: Directed by Jim Hosking. Screenplay, Hosking, Toby Harvard. Camera (color, HD), Marten Tedin; editor, Mark Burnett; music, Andrew Hung; production designer, Jason Kisvarday; costume designer, Christina Blackaller; set decorator, Kelsi Ephraim; sound, Masahito Yano; sound mixer, Armando Macias; 1st assistant directors, Josh Labrucherie, Chad Nicholson; casting, Danielle Aufiero.
  • With: Michael St. Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo, Gil Gex, Abdoulaye NGom, Holland MacFallister, Sam Dissanayake, Jesse Keen, Joe David Walters, Sal Koussa, Carl Solomon, Dana Haas.