A father-son duo who make their living taking gullible tourists on a fictitious walking tour of historical disco landmarks have their already strained relationship pushed to breaking point by the arrival of a woman who attracts the interest of both generations. That probably sounds like your typical quirky Sundance fare, but in addition to all that Dad may or may not be (he is) moonlighting as a lethal monstrosity-the eponymous “Greasy Strangler” whose design recalls The Toxic Avenger crossed with a stick of lard. Before it descends into an exhausting parade of nauseating imagery, The Greasy Strangler is actually pretty good, the jokes all land and the cast give enjoyably unselfconscious performances. One or two scenes, including one involving a character struggling with his pronunciation are genuinely hysterical and suggest that The Greasy Strangler might be more effective if director, Jim Hosking, reigned in his enthusiasm for provocation. Some of the gross-out humour, including the best prosthetic c**k since last year’s The Overnight, succeeds, but the third act massively over-relies on shocking imagery and plot contrivances that strain credulity even in Hosking’s funhouse version of our world.
Anyone familiar with the comedic stylings popularised by Tim and Eric on AdultSwim will probably be more familiar with the aesthetic employed by The Greasy Strangler. However, as Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim learned in Billion Dollar Movie, this approach is probably best kept to the sketch format. Even ‘The Eric Andre Show’, without a doubt the best of the shows made in this style, breaks up the minuscule 11 minute talk-show format with fast-paced non-sequitors and unscripted man-on-the-street segments that help keep things unpredictable and engaging. All this is simply a long way of saying that those interested in The Greasy Strangler might be better served elsewhere, in more easily digestible episodes available online.
Hosking does however, show real visual flair at times. Some shots have a kind of painterly composition that make it hard to look away and at times there’s a strange, eerie beauty in the ugliness on screen. Some reviews of the film have interpreted The Greasy Strangler as an allegory for the relationship between the ego and the super-ego. Maybe its just a case of Hosking pitching this film way over my head but its difficult to apply any sort of attentive analysis to a film that has you planning the easiest way to hop over the couple in front of you so you can vomit without ruining anyone’s evening.