Sundance London: The Greasy Strangler Review

Gruesome murders. Explicit, disgusting sex. And a whole lot of grease. The Greasy Strangler takes huge dollops of bad things, and serves them up in a thrillingly original feast that tastes so, so good.

You know how it is – when you’re a 40-something single man living in a static caravan with your geriatric father, serving him sausages swimming in grease (that still isn’t enough for him) and spending your days giving fraudulent tours of the disco history of your dilapidated neighbourhood, all you want is to meet a woman. That is what happens for Big Brayden (a wonderfully weary Sky Elobar); but his blossoming relationship with Janet (the brilliant Elizabeth de Razzo) comes under threat from his creaking, farting father Big Ronnie (magisterial Michael St Michaels), who sees himself as a Travolta-style lothario. Meanwhile, a shadowy figure is covering himself in a thick layer of grease at night and disposing of the town’s few residents via strangulation. Surely it’s a slippery slope for Brayden and Janet?

To take The Greasy Strangler seriously would do it a disservice. That is not to say it is a lightweight piece of work; it is testament to writer/director Jim Hosking & co-writer Toby Harvard’s talent that they have created a film of such boundless enjoyment. It feels like a practical joke that got out of hand; they have captured the delight in silliness that lives in British comedy from The Goon Show through Monty Python, to The League of Gentlemen and The Mighty Boosh. If anything, the eccentricities are dialled up even further, with a LOT more filth. At no point could you predict what the next scene, dialogue or shot will be. This appetite for the arbitrary endures to the very end; in a post-screening Q&A at Sundance London, Hosking answered a query about an especially random closing moment by saying it simply felt like a funny thing to do.

There is method in this madness, that makes TGS a greater film than the flatulence and fucking might suggest. The dialogue is a neatly crafted mixture of juvenile and retro; ‘bullshit artist’ is a constantly lobbed insult, while Ronnie tries to ‘get smooth’ with Janet. Many interactions have roots in the Theatre of the Absurd; an early misunderstanding sees the same word repeated for a good two minutes. I’ve seen films this far from the norm slip over into grating inanity; TGS pleases the audience throughout, while repulsing them simultaneously. Naked septuagenarians taking car washes, that sort of thing. Trust me, it’s hilarious.

The dramatic heritage extends to the Big Ronnie/Big Brayden family dynamic – like Waiting For Godot‘s Vladimir and Estragon, they hate each other but can’t quite bring themselves to separate. There’s the same twisted family dynamics and undercurrent of threat found in Pinter’s The Homecoming. To bring these influences to a modern audience Hosking/Harvard employ a bone-dry tone reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite.

The soundtrack is like Super Mario on acid, matching the discordant nature of the dialogue and never allowing you to get comfortable. All connections are single brush strokes on a greasy canvas though; they never dominate, instead mixing together to create a thrillingly unique ride. At a snappy 93 minutes it is perfectly paced.

Well, erm…yes. You’re going to have to see the film to find out.

The phrase ‘cult film’ has been bastardized, used to mean ‘something even slightly different from the norm’. Deadpool has grossed nearly $800 million. It is not a cult film. Shaun Of The Dead, shown weekly on British TV to huge audiences, is not a cult film, brilliant as it is. The Greasy Strangler, for which Picturehouse has just snapped up the distribution rights, might just be. Take your weirdest friends to a late-night screening and indulge in all that grease that Hollywood tries its best to avoid. If you don’t – well, you’re just a bullshit artist.

The trailer has just dropped today, and with the announcement from Picturehouse of an October 7th release date, if you want to be ready then you’d best start greasing up now…

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