The Greasy Strangler (2016)

The Greasy Strangler (2016)

Undoubtedly one of the – if not the – most outrageous films of the year, Jim Hosking’s The Greasy Strangler is destined to become enshrined in the halls of cult royalty for years to come.  The story, which revolves around a dysfunctional father/son relationship, a warped love triangle, disco scams and a greased up serial killer, is as absurd as they come – and pleasingly so.  The film has been garnering rave reviews in genre circles for its outlandish humor and gross out gags, but there’s a genuine sweetness brewing underneath the surface which culminates in a finale you’ll never forget – one that will warm your heart and sicken you to your stomach simultaneously.  The film goes out of its way to intentionally annoy, but the more ways it strives to be disliked and test our patience, the endearing and charming it becomes.  You see, at the centre of The Greasy Strangler is a tale of love that’s incredibly sweet (if that’s how you want to look at it anyway).  Recently, Diabolique Magazine were fortunate to grab a quick chat with lead actors Sky Elobar and Michael St. Michaels, who play Big Brayden and Big Ronnie respectively, for an exclusive interview. Unlike their characters in the film, neither individual is a “bullshit artist.’’  In fact, they’re both very down to earth, humble and – as you’d expect from the stars of a film of this nature – have a great sense of humor.

Now start swinging those shoulders and repeat after me: Hootie tootie disco cutie.  Hootie tootie disco cutie.  Hootie tootie disco cutie.  Hootie tootie disco cutie.  Hootie tootie disco cutie.  Hootie tootie disco cutie. Hootie tootie disco cutie.  Hootie tootie disco cutie.

Sky Elobar and Elizabeth De Razzo in the Greasy Strangler

Sky Elobar and Elizabeth De Razzo in the Greasy Strangler

Interview with Sky Elobar

Diabolique: So, take us back to the moment you finished reading the script for The Greasy Strangler.  What were your initial thoughts?

Sky Elobar (Big Brayden): My initial reaction was, “Man, this is way, way, way over the top.’’ There was just so much content in there [and] it hit me over the head like a baseball bat.  I was like, “Oh my God, is this a freaking porno?’’

Diabolique: Was it the outrageous nature of the project that attracted you to it?

Elobar: I just thought that [director] Jim Hosking had a really, strong, unique vision and I definitely wanted to be a part of it.  It was so different and creative and unlike anything I’d ever read before and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.  Even if it didn’t do anything I’d have been proud to say, “this movie is phenomenal.’’

Diabolique: What was casting like? Did you have to have to go through an audition process?  I imagine that auditioning for a movie like The Greasy Strangler would have been very interesting…

Elobar: It did involve an audition process that was very strange.  It was strange to see Patrick Swayze’s brother there; he was auditioning for the part of the Greasy Strangler and I said to him, “Hey, did anybody ever tell you that you look at lot like Patrick Swayze?’’ And he said, “Yeah man, he’s my fucking brother.’’  I was like, “Holy Shit.’’

Diabolique: The reaction to the film has been positive, especially in circles of those who love these outlandish movies. That said, due to its nature, it’s certainly not a film for everyone.  Have you encountered any negative reaction to it so far?

Elobar: I haven’t seen any negative reactions, only “Oh my God, what did I just see? Thank you very much, Jim.’’

Diabolique: You spend most of the film either naked or in your underwear.  Were those scenes quite awkward to film?

Elobar: Well that’s Jim in general.  He does stuff like that to put you out of your comfort zone.  It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything on screen in my underwear through the whole movie.  You’re not in your comfort zone at all, which helps you an actor.

Sky Elobar and Michael St Michaels in The Greasy Strangler (2016)

Sky Elobar and Michael St Michaels in The Greasy Strangler (2016)

Diabolique: In the film, your character co-runs a sham disco tour business with his abusive father.  Prior to the film, what was your relationship with disco music like?

Elobar: I love disco music.  I love it.  I love Barry White; he wasn’t really considered straight out disco but he had disco beats.  I really don’t like the disco that’s played drum machines and sounds programmed. I hate that.  I love the real bands that play disco, like the guys from Philadelphia – [bands like] the Tramps and the O’Jays.  I loved the Bee Gees; it’s all drummer, bass player, and guitar player – those were real bands with real tracks, not programmed.  I’m a musician myself, so I just don’t like quantization.  I don’t like quantizing tracks to where they sound perfect; human beings are not perfect.

Diabolique: I had no idea you played.  Do you have a band, or any recorded songs out there we can find?

Elobar: I was in a band in the 90’s and early 2000’s called 7th House.  We were on Atlantic Records.  We started out as a guitar-heavy funk band, but right before we got signed our drummer left, and when [entered] the studio the producer changed our whole sound.  I’m really into music though – and film.  When both come together it’s a beautiful thing.

Diabolique: Speaking of films, what are some of your favorites?

Elobar: Max Von Sydow is in a film called Imtacto, it’s a crazy film.  I also like Martin Scorsese’s King of Comedy with Sarah Bernhard and Robert De Niro.  I watch it all the time.  I’m a big fan of the futuristic Harrison Ford movie Blade Runner, and I absolutely love the first Matrix.  I love the first Jason Bourne movie, Bourne Identity. And I love the Australian movie Rabbit-Proof Fence… that made me cry.

Diabolique: Can you tell us about some of your favorite music, aside from disco and Motown of course?

Elobar: Jazz – Miles Coltrane, Bill Evans, Sam Rivers, Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, Chick Corea, Jaco Pastorius. I love [Dutch progressive rock band] Focus; Jan Akkerman was their guitar player, who nobody has ever heard even though he’s one of the most freaking insane guitar players on the planet.  

Diabolique: Back to the film; what would you like people to take from The Greasy Strangler after they’ve watched it?

Elobar: Even in the most fucked up situations the best outcome can always come from it.  It’s a story about a father and son at odds who finally come together by going back to their animal tendencies.

Diabolique: There’s something rather sweet about seeing a father and son reconnect and go on a cannibalistic killing spree together…

Elobar: [Laughs] That’s what I hope people take out of it.  Right on, man.

Diabolique: Lastly, do you have any projects coming up you can tell us about?

Elobar: I have a couple of shorts that are hopefully going to get into Sundance.  One is called American Paradise and the other is called Pet Monkey.  American Paradise is really, really, really out there; you’ll see it soon.  I’m also shooting a movie with David Robert Mitchell, who did It Follows.  Did you see It Follows?

Diabolique: I loved it.  He also did The Last American Sleepover, which I also loved…

Elobar: Yeah, man. Well, he’s shooting a movie called Under the Silver Lake with Andrew Garfield and I’m in that.

Michael St Michaels and Elizabeth De Razzo in The Greasy Strangler (2016)

Michael St Michaels and Elizabeth De Razzo in The Greasy Strangler (2016)

Interview with Michael St Micheals

Diabolique: Your IMDB shows some inactive years.  Did you take a hiatus from acting? If so, what did you get up to during that interval?

Michael St. Michaels (Big Ronnie): Well my IMDB and I don’t get along.  I’ve been trying for years to get that straightened out.  It doesn’t reflect my resume.  I’m very technically illiterate, so when it comes to anything to do with a computer I screw it up.

Diabolique: So, take us back to the moment you finished reading the script for The Greasy Strangler.  What were your initial thoughts?

Michaels: Well my first thought was that they wanted me to work [laughs].  But I didn’t get to read the script until after I got the part, because they sent it to me on a PDF that I couldn’t download.  So, when I was doing the audition they printed me a copy, but I was so centred on Big Ronnie and Greasy that I didn’t pay too much attention to the rest.  I was just trying to learn my lines – and I didn’t get that right either.  It was a weird experience.

Diabolique: If you knew what you were getting yourself into do you think you would have still accepted the role?

Michaels: I’m overwhelmed by all the notoriety it’s brought me.  I’m very grateful for Jim Hosking for putting me in this thing and for being the genius he’s turning out to be.

Diabolique: How was he to work with?

Michaels: It was wonderful.  He did everything he could to help me, and I really needed it.  I showed up unprepared, I was sick and I had some personal things going on, which didn’t go away until the day before we started shooting.

Diabolique: As you said, the film has achieved some notoriety and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  Out of the all the films released recently, this is one that will be considered a cult classic for years to come.  How have you found the response so far?

Well, I’ve been able to make three different projects since just on the strength of it.  I’m really bad at auditions usually. The casting people worked hard with me also.  I just hope it keeps going.  They’re taking me to Australia [for Monster Fest 2016] to open the film down there.  I’ve always wanted to go there.  I haven’t travelled that much; I took a cruise once and we visited Scotland recently.  It was beautiful there; I don’t remember where it was but there was a lake and a ship in it.  

Michael St Michaels The Greasy Strangler (2016)

Michael St Michaels The Greasy Strangler (2016)

Diabolique: For much of the film, you’re unclothed and covered in grease.  What was it they used to make it?

Michaels: It’s a product called Ultra Ice, and it’s very slimy, it sticks and it’s cold.  I don’t know what’s in it but if you ever go to the Sahara you should take some of this stuff with you and it might give you hypothermia in the middle of the day.  One day I was in that suit for hours and I was shivering when I got back to the set.  That was the part where I killed Oinker.  It’s brutal stuff.

Diabolique: How did you feel about the naked scenes?

Michaels: I never really felt naked.  I had this big leaf I was wearing all the time, and I didn’t have to look at me – until I saw the movie and then I was kind of appalled.  But in 10 years I’m going to see it and wish I looked that good.

Diabolique: Your character, Big Ronnie, is a disco enthusiast.  What are your thoughts on the genre?  Are you a fan?

Michaels: I am.  I like anything I consider to be good.  I really like the soundtrack to this movie though…

Diabolique: It was scored by [Fuck Buttons’] Andrew Hung, who’s a favorite of mine…

Michaels: I’ve since became a fan of Fuck Buttons, who I’d never heard of before.  I live a very sheltered life.  I’m still fascinated by Die Antwoord, their videos are crazy and out there.  I also like this Norwegian group called Katzenjammer; I think they broke up, which is a shame because I really like their music.  

Diabolique: What can you tell me about your experience working on The Video Dead?

Michaels: Originally, I was in the first 20 minutes of the movie but the distributor made them cut me out, then they went bankrupt and everything disappeared.  MGM just re-released it and they’ve taken most of me out, apart from the scenes where I appeared as a zombie.  It’s a much better movie without me, and as a zombie I think I had too much personality.  Also, there was this band called Union Carbide [Productions’] who before the first Gulf War, were playing my movie and sending me all this free stuff – I have no idea how they found me.  Then the next thing I hear, the BBC were refusing to play their music because they were too pacifistic.  That’s what you get for being a fan of mine.

Diabolique: Do people still ask you about the movie? Because it does have a cult fan base who love it…

Michaels: I do.  I was in a restaurant the other day there with some friends having dinner and the manager of the place came over and asked me if I was the guy from The Video Dead.  One time I was on a set with Joe Don Baker and these kids came up asking for my autograph; they didn’t know who he was and he’s a much bigger name than I am.

Diabolique: What other projects do you have coming up you can tell us about?

Michaels: I really don’t know; every job you do could be your last.  I just came back from Florida where I worked for a few days on a movie called Fingers.  When I got back I worked on a short in Downtown, Los Angeles where my favorite line from the thing was, “And Trump is our savior.’’ And we were in an area where people were ready to pounce on me, so you can imagine how that went down…