Not too long ago I watched Jim Hosking's An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn and it left me completely flabbergasted. Needless to say, I was happy to learn that it was Hosking's second film already. Word on the street (and the web) was that these two films shared the same DNA, so I set out to catch up with The Greasy Strangler. And sure enough, it's another bonkers comedy that defies all rules of good taste, only this time around some minor horror elements were thrown into the mix. It's an absolute hoot, but proceed with caution because it's not for everyone.
There are quite a few things that characterize a Jim Hosking film, but none so much as his ability to conjure up some of the strangest, grossest, most awkward oddballs that have ever graced a screen. I'm not sure how he goes about casting and styling his actors, but I'm confident they can't be too conscious of their own looks when they decide to sign up for one of his films. If the body truly is the temple to the soul, Hosking's onscreen world is the realm of pagans, demons and antichrists.
The Greasy Strangler is very much a comedy, everything here is played exclusively for laughs, but underneath all the funny bits you'll find the skeleton of a typical trashy horror film. That's probably why I've seen some people compare The Greasy Strangler to the Troma features, but even though I've only watched a couple of those, I would say it's a comparison that does a big disservice to the talent and vision of Hosking. While there are no doubt superficial similarities, I wouldn't put them on the same shelf.
The story revolves around Brayden, a middle-aged simpleton living in with his dad. On one of their bogus disco-star tours through the city Brayden falls in love with a girl attending the tour. His dad doesn't really approve of this budding relationship and tries to win the girl for himself. He may look old and wrinkly, but apparently the man has some very smooth tricks up his sleeve and Brayden faces some stiff competition from his old man. Meanwhile, a strange greased-up killer is roaming the streets and murdering people at random.
Stylistically The Greasy Strangler is a little less refined compared to Hosking's second film, which was to be expected. That said, all the key elements are already present. Strong visual gags, mad clothing choices and a striking affinity for ugliness define Hosking's visual style. The camera work is nice, the framing formal and the editing precise. The limited budget shines through in some places, though it never seems to compromise his vision much. While I wouldn't say this film's a definite looker, the styling is spot on.
The soundtrack too plays an incredibly important part in the film's success. The simple, 8-bit like electro tunes are an essential part of Hosking's signature and give the film a rhythm of its own. All in all it's a very strange selection of tracks that wouldn't fare too well outside the context of the film, but as part of the entire package they make total sense (that is, they are just as off-puttingly funny as the rest of the film). A prime example of how to do a superb comedy soundtrack, no doubt one of the most challenging genres to elevate with music.
And of course the actors deserve their part of the praise. It takes courage to take on roles like these and none of them seem to be holding back, even when Hosking tries his hardest to show them from their ugliest side. They all seem to understand how to give body to the overstated and deliberate style of acting that Hosking loves to pursue. That said, I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to see them in another film without seeing the characters they've portrayed here. These are the kind of roles that might stick with them a little longer than they'd like.
Hosking really deserves a lot of credit for his work. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but it's not easy making something original nowadays and with just two features to his name, Hosking already has one of the most recognizable signatures in the business. He may find it challenging going forward, as his style is so particular that there's a chance it could get a little repetitive after a while, but I hope he finds his way and keeps on producing interesting variations on his unique take on film.
The Greasy Strangler is a film for people who can handle weird and nonsensical comedy with a dash of horror. It's a crazy film, full of oddball characters, strange conversations and overstated emotions, executed in such a way that it becomes madly funny. Personally I love Hosking's style and approach to comedy, but it's not a film I could wholeheartedly recommend as it is sure to split the room. No harm in giving it a fair chance though, that's the least Hosking deserves for doing something so bold and different.