Fergus McCall, The Mill NY’s Head of Colour, collaborated with Director Jim Hosking on his feature film debut, The Greasy Strangler. The surreal, midnight horror comedy follows Ronnie and his son Brayden, who together run the family business, Big Ronnie’s Disco Walking Tour. When Braydon attracts the attention of an alluring redhead, an intense father-son competition begins. It also signals the appearance of a lard-covered serial killer who stalks the Los Angeles streets at night.
Described as a “playful oasis of filth, depravity and shock” (The Guardian) and “2016’s most disgusting movie” (Rollingstone), the film, which premiered in the 2016 Sundance Film Festival Midnight Section, combines gag-inducing visuals and cringe worthy sex scenes (not to mention the bizarre penis prosthetics) with a unique, heartfelt father-son story.
Director Jim Hosking shares, “The Greasy Strangler sounds like it will be a horror film or an ironic take on a B-movie. In my head, it was none of these things. I wanted to make a very peculiar comedy about a father and son, Big Ronnie and Big Brayden, who both fall in love with the same woman. They meet her on one of the ‘disco walking tours’ that they give in their town. She is the only woman they meet. There are no other women in the film.”
While the film is set Los Angeles, you may not realize it while watching. Hosking wanted to film another side of LA not often depicted in movies, giving the film a unique look that is simultaneous familiar and uncomfortable. He shares, “I chose desolate locations around the city to compound the bleakness. There are no passersby, the city is like a ghost town. This bleakness becomes beautiful when peppered with magical, striking costumes and a grade that creates as much depth and texture as possible.
“We found a house that hadn’t been cleaned for 40 years. Big Ronnie and Big Brayden live in this house. It had great old wallpaper, holes in ceilings, a faded tragic delusional grandeur. We accessorised the stunning pre-existing interior decoration with little touches like some gold satin sheets for Big Ronnie. But obviously on a smaller budget you look to accessorise rather than build from scratch.”
Hosking was inspired by older films with deeper colours and thicker textures, using stills from old Rainer Werner Fassbinder films and John Cassavetes films for colour reference. Having worked with Cinematographer Mårten Tedin many times before, the team have developed a style: deliberate camera moves, minimal coverage, and a moody atmosphere.
For Tedin, “The key was that we tried to keep it simple. A natural look when it came to lighting but keeping the blocking kind of staged. Simple and graphic locations while controlling the colour palette as much as we could.”
Hosking wanted the grade to feel like an old film print without the addition of film grain. Having previously worked together on the short film Renegades, which also premiered at Sundance (in 2010), the director viewed the grading process as a collaboration. He explains, “I come in with certain references but I choose everybody I work with because they are going to bring something fabulous to the production that I am unable to envisage myself. I seek inspiration through collaboration. Ferg (McCall) has strong ideas and you need strong ideas from everybody that you work with.
“We worked instinctively and quickly to reach a point that excites both of us. We wanted the film to be rich but also moody, dark at times, and to feel like a wholly individual world separate from our own. I’ve been thrilled that even people who find the film itself utterly confounding have complimented the film on its grade and cinematography.”
While McCall knew that Hosking’s aesthetic came from the left-field, he describes the experience of being confronted with colour correcting the grease-crusted geriatric and his monstrous member as “life changing” and “putting Hosking's typically bizarre sensibility on steroids.”
The grade worked to complement what had already been designed: the beautifully lit scenes by Tedin, the unconventional settings from Production Designer Jason Kisvarday, and the very memorable outfits by Costumer Christina Blackaller. The result is an elegantly disgusting homage to the cult of B-movies; a colourful film noir look slathered with the oily sheen of filth and depravity.
Hosking puts it best, “The subject matter is at times rather rude and grotesque but the film is never less than beautiful. I think that helps to unhinge certain audience members. They are being seduced while being defiled.”