How do you feel about anti-comedy? Do properties like Comedy Bang Bang or The Eric Andre Show or Xavier: Renegade Angel annoy or delight you? Your answer to that question is largely going to determine your reaction to the anti-humor horrors of The Greasy Strangler, which essentially applies the ethos of Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie to a creature feature format. Within seconds the antagonistic humor of this dirt cheap indie horror establishes itself as the definition of not-for-everyone, but it shouldn’t feel too out of step for folks who’ve spent enough time following Adult Swim’s ever-evolving line-up over the years. Personally, I found The Greasy Strangler to be an amusingly perverse provocation, one that works fairly well as a deconstruction of the Sundance-minded indie romance. I wouldn’t fault anyone who disliked the film for being cruel, grotesque, or aggressively stupid. Those claims would all certainly be valid. As a nasty slasher by way of Eric Warheim, however, that’s just a natural part of a very unnatural territory.
This is not a murder mystery. In the very first scene a father confesses to his live-at-home son that he is, in fact, The Greasy Strangler. This is a man who eats & drinks copious amounts of grease with every meal. He dips his hotdogs in tubs of grease. He asks questions like, “Why not put a little grease in your java?” At any inquiry of his grease fetish he retorts incredulously, “You probably think I’m The Greasy Strangler, don’t you?” in a tone that’s effectively a de facto confession. His son, who looks like a strange, sad hybrid between Jeffrey Tambor & Dawn Weiner, spends a lot of time around his greasy, murderous pop. He prepares most of his meals, lounges nude around the home with him, and assists in his (fraudulent) disco tour business, but doesn’t suspect at all that his father might be the local grease-covered serial murderer until deep in the third act. Such is the deliberate stupidity of this film.
As a creature feature, The Greasy Strangler undeniably delivers the goods. Although a decidedly camp-minded comedy, it boasts a truly hideous, horrifying monster that’s sickening to behold. What I find much more unique, however, is the way the film satirizes and sets aflame the modern indie romance genre. The color palette & social awkwardness of titles like Juno or Napoleon Dynamite or whatever their post-aughts equivalent would be is meticulously recreated here, but put to a grotesque effect. This is quirk employed for pure evil. Seemingly the only woman in this pastel horror show universe somehow enters a love triangle with The Greasy Strangler & his sad sack progeny. The world’s most upsetting prosthetic genitals continually bump ugly in what would usually play as a “star-crossed lovers find love in a world where they don’t belong” plot. The romance of The Greasy Strangler is just as upsetting & difficult to watch as its monstrous kills. The film pretends to strive for meticulous twee preciousness, but it doesn’t take long for its corny façade to crumble and the film becomes queasy in an entirely different, much more upsetting way.
Like with most (if not all) comedies, your tolerance & appreciation of The Greasy Strangler will depend greatly on your sense of humor. This usually goes doubly true in the case of anti-comedy, which is aggressively antagonistic in its reliance on repetition & inanity to the point where being annoyed is supposed to be part of the appeal. This film is built with several ready-to-go drinking game options, considering the ungodly number of times it forces you to watch the titular killer run his naked body through an automated car wash and the even more numerous, Gertrude Stein-esque utterances of phrases like “bullshit artist.” As someone who enthusiastically enjoyed the film, but expects plenty of dissent on that reaction, I have to offer the laziest critical advice imaginable: watch a trailer first. The Greasy Strangler’s advertising has been exceptionally blunt & honest about the film it’s selling and I feel like a two minute clip is more than enough to determine if this will be worth your time. I got everything I wanted out of it as a Tim & Eric-style slasher with a satirical edge in its approach to romantic indie quirk. That’s not going to ring true for everyone, but comedy is one of the most divisive genres around, so that’s to be expected.