Is this the weirdest film ever?

In this scene from The Greasy Strangler, actor Sky Elobar screams in his underwear in the street at night.
In this scene from The Greasy Strangler, actor Sky Elobar screams in his underwear in the street at night.PHOTO: YOUTUBE

NEW YORK• Just how weird is The Greasy Strangler? Let us take a minute.

It is about a chubby man-dweeb named Big Brayden (Sky Elobar), who suspects that his elderly, irascible father, Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels), moonlights as the Greasy Strangler, a creature who covers himself (and his mega- penis) in oozing layers of grease and fat before he sets out to slaughter.

By day, the two men lead tours of supposed disco landmarks. They dress in gender-warping outfits that a generous fashion critic might call the Willy Wonka collection for Chico's.

When they fall in love with the same bodacious woman, Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo), it sparks a Jerry Springer-meets-Arthur Miller war of sexual and emotional duplicity.

The film, which opened on Oct 7, overflows with extravagant flatulence, frenzied gore and preposterous copulation.

Or as Variety put it, "an exercise in juvenile scatology that's almost awesomely pure in its numbing, repetitious determination to annoy", with a "sense of absurdism that stubbornly remains on the peepee/caca level". So, yeah, it is that weird.

Those words are sweet nothings to Jim Hosking, the director of The Greasy Strangler, which had its premiere at Sundance.

Hosking said he found inspiration for his feature debut in the mysteriously artful films of David Lynch, the punk-inflected 1980s British sitcom The Young Ones and "film-makers who are distinctive and different and who go their own way".

The result, he said, was "a really unfiltered script, something that was perfectly self-indulgent and pushed various ideas of comedy".

Fans of midnight movies will see familiar sights in The Greasy Strangler.

It has human grotesques, like those in Eraserhead (1977). It marries horror and porn just like The Sinful Dwarf (1973) and other sexploitation films. It has a memorable antagonist-monster, like the weiner-eating freak in Basket Case (1982), with violence that is as cartoonish as that in the Japanese ghost story House (1977).

But it is also a contender for the title of Weirdest Movie Ever by tinkering in freshly disorienting ways with gender, language and design.

It was shot in Los Angeles, so the locations feel familiar. But the landscape unsettles the eye, as if cult film Multiple Maniacs (1970) had left Baltimore for Pluto.

Christina Blackaller's costume design, for example, is monochromatic and textural, like furniture. The silhouettes are deliberately ill-fitting, and the feminine tailoring - even for the men - lands somewhere between Comme des Garcons and Scooby-Doo.

The movie sounds strange too.

In several scenes, characters comically repeat words - in one scene it is "potato" - as if stranded inside a Beckett wasteland.

Just as demented is Andrew Hung's score, which features bouncy, bass-heavy electronic blips and singsong manipulated voices that Hosking said sounded "like the music was made for a Japanese video game".

Oddly, finding actors willing to get naked and do unspeakable acts with their body parts was not as much of a challenge as Hosking expected.

"People probably did feel exposed and challenged, but they found the material funny and unique," he said.

"I tried to be gentle and sensitive while making something that was asking a lot. We were all feeling discomfort at times."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2016, with the headline 'Is this the weirdest film ever?'. Print Edition | Subscribe