Q&A – The Greasy Strangler director Jim Hosking on horror, grease and the ‘midnight movie’ label

Michael St Michaels as Big Ronnie in The Greasy Strangler
Michael St Michaels as Big Ronnie in The Greasy Strangler

Few films have made as clear an impression this year as Jim Hosking‘s utterly remarkable The Greasy Strangler. With its bizarre penis prosthetics, abundance of gloopy oil and grisly murders, it’s a film that bears all of the hallmarks for cult success.

The story follows father and son duo Big Ronnie and Big Brayden, who gives mostly fictional disco tours around their hometown. By night, grease-obsessed Ronnie douses himself in grime and takes to the streets as the eponymous serial killer. The arrival of a young woman with romantic feelings for Brayden threatens Ronnie’s easy equilibirum, which leads him to take extreme action.

The Greasy Strangler really has to be seen to be believed. I got the chance to chat with writer-director Hosking to ask him what it’s all about.

 

Are you the ‘Greasy Strangler’?

Yes, of course I am. And so is my Dad. And so are you. And so is Pam next door. And so is Pam’s live-in carer. We are all greasy stranglers. I am told this is a euphemism for diabolical self-abuse. But I don’t believe everything that people tell me. Do you?

 

How would you describe The Greasy Strangler to someone who knows nothing about it?

I think it’s rather like a kid’s film where someone at the last minute got the subject matter a bit wrong and it became highly inappropriate. But fundamentally, at heart, it’s an innocent playful film for all the family. In fact I was looking at a New York cinema’s website yesterday, where it’s screening, and on the cinema’s website it stated that you can see the film if you are aged six or upwards, but that if you are between six and 18 then you should have an adult with you.

I think that’s a good idea. You definitely want to have an adult or one of your parents with you when you are watching Brayden and Janet in bed together. That is the scene where I am told she ‘milks the prostate’. I did not know what this meant. And yet I had apparently filmed it. Oh woe.

 

How did the idea come about and what was the process of getting it to the big screen like?

I write a lot of scripts with my friend Toby [Harvard]. We decided to write a gleeful, liberated, perverted script just for the fun of it. We had an idea for a book around the same time, where Toby would create erotic drawings and I would write stories to accompany the drawings. We just found ourselves neck-deep mining a particular tone of perversion. Soon this became The Greasy Strangler.

Getting it to the big screen seemed impossible, and then unlikely, and then suddenly it just happened with the click of the fingers when various producers read it and, like us, they also wanted to make something fairly outré. Getting it to the big screen also involved watching a lot of naked men running around.

 

How important was the support of people like Elijah Wood and Ben Wheatley in getting the film made and distributed?

It is very helpful to have well-known respected figures within the film industry support your film when you make a film that involves a cast of naked unknowns waving around long triangular genitalia.

 

 

Tell me about the casting process. How did you find the right people for these roles?

I know various actors that I like and my casting directors Danielle Aufiero and Amber Horn also found some wonderful actors too. We were looking for actors who were not recognisable to audiences, who would not be dark or disturbing, who would bring innocence and fun to this film, and obviously they had to be prepared to get nekkid. Nekkid is a buzzword if you are in The Greasy Strangler inner circle, which you are now.

 

What do you think a general audience is going to make of the movie? It’s certainly a little different to the usual diet of Marvel films and Disney animations.

Well, I can see what people are making of it because they tell me. But generally those that like it find it funny and inspiring and those that don’t like it find it pointless and nonsensical.

 

Who are your main inspirations in terms of both comedy and horror?

David Lynch, Roman Polanski, Carry On Screaming, Wallace and Gromit.

 

Do you think the film had too much grease or too little grease?

I have no idea. I also have less interest in grease than everybody else. That is one thing that is very apparent to me after having made this film.

 

The film has been compared to a lot of the classic ‘midnight movies’. Is that a comparison you welcome?

I honestly don’t know what midnight movies are. To me this film is a comedy.

 

A lot of the comedy in this film comes from non-sequiturs and repetition. What draws you to that kind of humour?

I don’t know that this film has any non-sequiturs in it. I just do what I find funny and analyse it as little as possible. I like people arguing, and I find it funny how boring and pointless a lot of conversations are.

 

One of the most interesting things about the film is the instantly memorable music. How did that come about?

I asked Andrew Hung of Fuck Buttons to do the music after hearing his track ‘Fables’. Fuck Buttons recorded their first album in my cousin Tim’s studio, so I had always been aware of them. I always had a feeling from listening to their music and to Andrew’s solo music that he would know precisely what to do with the music for this film, and he did. His music has brought me more joy than I could have possibly imagined. And what a lovely man too. Three cheers for Andrew Hung!

 

 

The film has certainly split those who have seen it in half. You seem to enjoy the negative reviews as much as the positive ones. What do you think of the reactions?

I certainly don’t enjoy the negative reviews. I don’t want anyone to dislike the film. But I accept that some people will. It’s got a strong personality that will send viewers in different directions.

I actually try not to read the reviews, unless someone tells me I should really read one. I find that they don’t help much. They encourage a level of navel-gazing that is unhelpful and unhealthy. I am happy if some people love this film and feel a kinship to it. It’s a film for misfits I think. I suppose I thought everybody was a misfit at heart. But maybe I was wrong.

 

The Greasy Strangler got a rather limited release in UK cinemas. Do you think it’s a film that can find a new audience on DVD and streaming services?

I’ve no idea. Obviously I’d like people to see it. But I’ve done what I can. Now what happens happens. Maybe some people will click on the renting button accidentally and it will have millions and millions of views. Come on people – use your fattest fingers and click on my film’s renting link accidentally and make me rich beyond my fucking wildest dreams!

 

What’s next for you? Will you be returning to the world of this film?

I’m making another film very soon. It’s a different world. I don’t want to retread old ground. But of course I find certain things funny, compelling. So if you liked my first film you might enjoy my second, because it is the same director. But also if you hated my first film, you might enjoy my second because it is a different world. If you didn’t see my first film, you might enjoy my second, because that is a distinct possibility isn’t it!

 

And finally, how does it feel to have made the year’s weirdest movie in a twelve months that has featured shagging foodstuffs and Harry Potter as a farting corpse with an erection?

Well, I think it’s fun that a few people are making films to make themselves laugh. I didn’t set out to make a weird film, or a cult film. I really wanted to just make a film that felt like it came from me, and that people would not see otherwise. I wanted to make the sort of film that I would really enjoy and that would tickle me.

Life can be hard and it can grind you down. I wanted this film to pick people up. However, it didn’t have that precise effect on everybody. In fact, it has driven some people to take axe to their head and to cleave their very nose from their very face.

 

Thank you, Jim Hosking! The Greasy Strangler is in selected UK cinemas for Halloween and is also available on DVD and Blu-ray now.

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