It would be fair to say The Greasy Strangler’s premiere outing at Sundance didn’t earn as much love as Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s, among critics at least. David Farrier’s Tickled will be subject to the critics’ later today.
Of those getting in early (if that’s not a contradiction for a Midnight screening) to write up The Greasy Strangler, the mainstream trades seemed to struggle to find the line between acknowledging that films programmed in the Midnight section are not going to have mainstream appeal, and still trying to apply normal critical standards to them anyway.
Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, John DeFore really didn’t like it much.
Even while admitting, “Nobody who goes to see a movie called The Greasy Strangler can object to contrived offensiveness or endurance-test sequences” DeFore suggested that even some of those who might speak positively of it, “will be obeying a subconscious obligation to the outré … without really enjoying it?”
He also called the film “a witless bore”.
For Variety Dennis Harvey, who’d written postively about Wilderpoplestruggled with The Greasy Strangler but also managed to work “outré” into his assessment.
He put the film on top of the pile of the “one or two movies (usually in the Midnight section) that primarily appeal to the 13-year-old stoner male most viewers will be glad they no longer are or never were”.
“An exercise in juvenile scatology,” deemed Harvey.
What compliments there were came back-handed. Assessed overall as “reasonably crafted”, Marten Tedin’s cinematography was described as “a few notches better than the film deserves”. Harvey also called the film “awesomely pure” before completing the sentence “in its numbing, repetitious determination to annoy”.
Producer Ant Timpson quickly took to twitter to collate the quotes:
— Ant Timpson (@Timpson) January 24, 2016
In contrast The Daily Beast’s Jen Yamato clearly had a much better time, calling the film Sundance’s the first true WTF selection this year.
Despite some reservations (“more aggressively tumescent dong shots than you’ll ever be able to erase from your brain”) Yamato decided the “oddball murder mystery is one long feature-length skin-crawl, a comic exercise in visceral discomfort that’s all the more entertaining if you can check your gag reflex and lean into the ick”.
She called the “slimy, grimy, dare of a movie” a perfect fit for the Midnight programme. She even drew the bow a bit further, saying that despite the “genre-jumping insanity and prurient indulgence”, the film was “like a lot of Sundance indies, mining familial bonds for truths about human connection, dysfunction, and healing”. With more cock.