Let 'The Greasy Strangler' Bathe You In Your Own Filth [SXSW 2016 Movie Review]

Big Brayden and Big Ronnie in 'The Greasy Strangler.' SpectreVision

Poop and it goes away down a pipe. Cragged nuggets or sludge, no one has to look. Pick your nose and hide it under the couch. Probe your body’s odd crevices behind a shower curtain. Scratch pustules, zits, cauliflower genital warts and hide it under cloth. Wash the cloth in scalding water and caustic soap, even if it only touched your skin for a few hours. Think horrible, sexual, violent, hateful and self-hating thoughts and keep them hidden inside your skull.

Everything disgusting and despicable about us we lock away, from ourselves too. We hide it under elaborate rituals. Even our ethical systems are half given over to hiding ourselves from each other. The horrors of the body and mind make up a significant chunk of our existence, but live only in a secret realm. The inverse of our public selves, our wobbly shadows of fart gas and fetish pheromones, live there.

But what if a father and son lived in that place? What if the father was the KING of that place? Their kingdom would look something like The Greasy Strangler.

When The Greasy Strangler opens Big Ronnie and his son, Big Brayden, are in the midst of a classic succession crisis. Big Ronnie, with his leonine white hair (he looks like he chose poorly at the end of The Last Crusade) and announcer voice (mainly used to shout “Bullshit Artist!”), is a paragon. He loves grease, strangling, telling people he’s not The Greasy Strangler and his huge, pointy penis (“It looks like a massive mouse’s head”).

His son is the opposite. He’s balding with a combover and has no confidence. Brayden is a disappointment, who cooks dry food and has a big heart. When Janet enters their lives, the tensions between father and son erupt into the open.

The Greasy Strangler is a shock film. People fart at you. Eyeballs burst. You’ll see more of these penises than you do your own genitals. The Greasy Strangler lounges in its own filth, the actual plot barely poking through the lumpy grease.

Still, The Greasy Strangler isn’t Jackass. These aren’t two men shoving rockets up their ass and giggling. They’re real characters, with real triumphs and disappointments. There are moments in The Greasy Strangler that transcend any shock. A spotlight turns on as Big Ronnie returns home from the disco. He dances in his disco wear, the crotch carved out in a diamond so you can see the long, sensual cleavage of his penis shaft. The light turns off and Big Ronnie stops dancing. It’s beautiful.

So many of the movies we see can be plotted in constellations of similar works, but The Greasy Strangler is a dark star in a nearly blank chunk of sky. If you want you can tell people The Greasy Strangler is like John Waters, Tim & Eric, The Oily Maniac or Troma movies but that’s only true to the extent that they all touch the sick-inducing other side, the kingdom of grease.

If you’re willing to follow, The Greasy Strangler is like an oily star of Bethlehem, leading back inside yourself, to everything gross, primal and human.


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