Done right, low hanging fruit combined with toilet humor can be a winning combination for a movie. The 80’s were filled with comedies like Porky’s-movies that abandoned a strong plot or well written characters in lieu of copious amounts of nudity and casual racism. What is the point in having a compelling narrative when you can make fun of how small someone’s penis is? Plus, audiences were willing to watch movies that seemed eager to focus on the most intimate bodily functions. Scary Movie and Ted were popular enough to warrant sequels.
Then there were the movies that pushed the envelope even further. The type of movies that would end with a “z” instead of an “s.” John Waters is probably the most famous provocateur of this genre. Waters’ movies refused to follow mainstream cinema’s ideas of decency and self-censorship. Over time, more acceptance came from mainstream audiences and by the early 21st century Jackass was one of the most popular shows on television. However, greater quantity does not equal greater quality. The Toxic Avenger movies contain some of the crudest humor of any comedies that were released in the 1980’s. However, there was a certain charm to Toxie and his friends. So much so that a cartoon based on the movies was released in the early 1990’s. Without this charm, you are left with a series of gross out jokes that may make you laugh at first, but will leave you increasingly annoyed as they continue. This is the case with 2016’s The Greasy Strangler.
The Greasy Strangler is a comedy horror film in the vein of Troma Entertainment. Similar to the movies of Troma, The Greasy Strangler is filled with over the top violence and juvenile humor. The movie’s plot revolves around Big Ronnie and his son Brayden. The two operate a disco walking tour. This leads to them becoming embroiled in a love triangle with a customer. In the midst of this, a serial killer dubbed “The Greasy Strangler” by the local news is on a killing spree.
The writing in The Greasy Strangler can be best described as lazy. The humor in the movie is crude and simplistic. Jokes have no build up and come across as forced. Instead, scenes drag on for minutes at a time in order to hammer home to the audience that what they are seeing is absurd and should be laughed at. (Dangerous drinking game # 1: Take a shot every time you ask yourself “How long is this scene?”) Think an old man with a ridiculously large penis is funny? What if you see it every 5 minutes? And what if the old man has a son with a ridiculously small penis? Now are you laughing? Along with continued shots of various nude bodies, there are multiple scenes of people with unflattering bodies in skimpy underwear, close ups of different types of food being covered in globs of grease, and a constant stream of immature fart jokes.
The consistent use of infantile humor are not the only examples of poor writing. In the 1990s, a common trope in comedies was the filthy mouthed grandmother. The Greasy Strangler does the same thing with Ronnie. He can’t seem to go more than three words without cussing. Ronnie is not content with entry level curse words either. References to women’s body parts, multiple f-bombs, and repeatedly saying C U Next Tuesday are just a small part of Ronnie’s vulgar vernacular.
The movie has a normal run time (it clocks in at roughly an hour and a half), but it feels longer. Jokes repeat constantly. (Dangerous drinking game #2: take a shot every time the term “BS artist” is used.) A scene involving the Greasy Strangler and a carwash is shown at least 5 times. Some movies make the audience look at the clock to see how long it has been on. The Greasy Strangler has you checking the clock to make sure that it is still working correctly.
The writing issues may have been less noticeable if the acting were better. Michael St. Michales is your basic gruff old curmudgeon. Sly Elobar seems to be playing Brayden as a socially awkward man child. There is nothing wrong with Elobar’s performance until Brayden initiates graphic phone sex that seems to conflict with how the character had been portrayed up until then. Elizabeth De Razzo plays the third part of the love triangle. She seems to be there to do little more than be demeaned and probably has the most nonsensical and disgusting lines of the movie. Any other characters are not a part of the movie long enough to leave any impression.
Despite its many shortcomings, The Greasy Strangler does do some things right. The movie is filled with vivid colors that pop off the screen and catch the audience’s eyes. The bubbly synth music is also appropriate for the film. The score is part Nintendo Entertainment System and part Atari and comes off as an odd mix of playful and tense. Unfortunately, it does nothing to add to the movie and instead serves as a pleasant distraction. The special effects are probably the best part of the movie. Campy and disgusting, the effects used are perfect for the tone of the movie. And though the jokes are tiring and disgusting, based on the volume, some will elicit a laugh. This does lead to the obvious question as to whether the movie is funny or whether the audience is shocked at what they are hearing.
The Greasy Strangler is a pony with one disgusting trick. Whether the jokes are about sex, body parts, bodily functions, or vulgar language, the movie tries to be as repulsive as possible. The beginning of the movie leads the audience to believe we are in for something new, exciting, fun and ridiculous. Quickly, though, it settles for being repetitive and unfunny.