Empire (UK) - - ON SCREEN - Kim new­man

SOME CULT MOVIES seem to fall through worm­holes from an al­ter­na­tive uni­verse. When folks who’ve caught them early de­scribe what they’ve seen to friends, they get ac­cused of mak­ing them up. Surely The Greasy Stran­gler can only be one of those film-within-a-film skits. But, yes, it does ex­ist, and you do have to see it to be­lieve it.

Though shot on far-from-glam­orous Los An­ge­les lo­ca­tions, this is set in an en­closed uni­verse where peo­ple are as set on cour­ses as trams on rails. When char­ac­ters try to change, the story and the world break up — the last reel of­fers sev­eral al­ter­na­tive end­ings. Direc­tor Jim Hosk­ing — who pre­vi­ously made short films, in­clud­ing ‘G For Gran­dad’ from ABCS Of Death 2 — care­fully es­tab­lishes the unique mood of the film. He de­ploys as­ton­ish­ingly com­mit­ted (if de­lib­er­ately one-note) per­for­mances, a great deal of low-bud­get vis­ual in­ven­tion, dis­tinc­tive mu­sic which will stick in your mem­ory like gum to a shoe, and an admirable de­sire to turn stom­achs by show­ing things few peo­ple want to look at for as long as he holds his shots. There are echoes of early John Waters or even the worst of Troma, but it’s likely to wind up clas­si­fied with even fur­ther-from-main­stream odd­i­ties like

Johnny Suede, Meet The Hol­low­heads or Big Meat

Eater as ei­ther your secret favourite film or the movie you never for­give a date for tak­ing you to.

Gar­goyle-like ge­ri­atric bas­tard Big Ron­nie (St Michaels) and his weedy, whiny grown son Big Bray­den (Elo­bar) are locked in a hideous re­la­tion­ship. Ob­sessed with greasy food, Ron­nie keeps in­sist­ing re­pul­sive fare be slathered with ex­tra oil — while un­con­vinc­ingly in­sist­ing he

isn’t The Greasy Stran­gler. Naked but slathered in goop, he mur­ders a) peo­ple who tick him off and b) peo­ple who might of­fer his son al­ter­na­tives to hang­ing around be­ing abused ver­bally by him. Af­ter each killing, he goes through a car wash run by his blind friend Big Paul (Gil Gex); the rep­e­ti­tion of the act (and footage) stresses the rit­ual, but also the rut in which ev­ery­one is trapped.

There’s a touch of Step­toe & Son in the back-and-forth bick­er­ing of the an­cient tyrant and the too-fee­ble­minded-to-leave man­boy, in­clud­ing a mer­ci­less rou­tine that gets fun­nier and fun­nier as each shouts “bull­shit artist” at the other. The cri­sis in the thin plot has Janet (De Razzo), who talks like a refugee from a hard­boiled 1930s comedy, be­come Bray­den’s girl­friend un­til Big Ron­nie sets out to take her away… lead­ing to an un­for­get­table “hootie tootie disco cutie” singing rou­tine. The last act comes up with a per­fect, in­evitable-yet-un­ex­pected tragic twist that even has a se­quel hook.

It is full of un­com­fort­able sights — not least co­pi­ous nu­dity or near-nu­dity from the sort of peo­ple sel­dom seen naked in films (fa­ther and son sport hu­mon­gous and tiny pe­nis pros­the­ses re­spec­tively). The gnome-like, smugly snarling St Michaels — whose few screen cred­its in­clude the direct-to-video zom­bie film The Video Dead (1987) and the re­cent Satanic cult pic­ture

An­other (aka Mark Of The Witch) — is as de­ter­minedly, re­lent­lessly mon­strous as Di­eter Laser in the Hu­man Cen­tipede se­ries, and ought to have a late-ca­reer re­nais­sance as grotesque bad guys.

ver­dict The Greasy Stran­gler is — to put it mildly — not for ev­ery­one. if you can take the all-out as­sault on your senses it’s worth stick­ing with for a core of gen­uine, af­fect­ing drama and dol­lops of sly, quotable hu­mour.

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