Plenty of WTF films that come out of the Sundance Film Festival every year. I managed to see two, and one happens to be way better than the other.
Not everyone can be John Waters. His brand of filth will always be genius and no one should ever try to live up to him — I’m talking to you writer/director Jim Hosking. Taking the cake for worst film of the 2016 program, The Greasy Strangler will no doubt go down in a blaze of glory for its awfulness. The film’s publicists are even trying to spin the bad word-of-mouth — most notably The Hollywood Reporter and Variety — by making fake ads sporting their “rave” reviews. Whatever you’ve heard about the film, it’s undeniably worse. Unless you like subjecting yourself to horrible acting and prosthetic penises.
As a short film, Hosking — along with his too-willing stars (Michael St. Michaels, Sky Elobar, and Elizabeth De Razzo) — this sordid trash could have been the hit the director thinks it is. There may be a manic glee to Hosking’s debauchery, but it gets so repetitive that you start to wonder if the film started over halfway through. How this started a bidding war is beyond me. It’s probably because Elijah Wood’s name is attached as producer.
For what it’s worth, the best way to describe the film is trying to imagine if Jared Hess directed a John Waters-reject script and threw in a few instances of Troma-style kills. Trust me, whatever you just conjured up in your own head is way better than any of Hosking’s on-screen depravity.
Avoid at all costs. Considering I have no idea who the target audience is, I think it might be safer to say that whatever studio plumped down their money should lock all the prints in a crate and drop it off a seaside cliff Creepshow-style to keep anyone from ever having to sit through it.
On the flip side, The Lure is hands down the most bonkers film I saw. A Polish musical about murderous mermaids Silver (Michalina Olszanska) and Gold (Marta Mazurek), it never skimps on the music, blood, or nudity. I was a little scared about the actresses ages — thankfully both actresses are in their 20s — considering they spend a lot of the film in their birthday suits. But alas, the film has a sweetness to its vengeful story of two mermaid sisters who get caught up in a Warsaw dance club band.
If there’s any real problem with The Lure it’s that it never makes up its mind about what kind of musical it wants to be. It bounces around from rock opera to one huge choreographed number and then to a Chicago-style “mind’s eye.” Cinematographer Kuba Kijowski keeps things bright and flashy, but sometimes it also feels like there were chunks of the film left on the cutting room floor. Choreographers Kaya Kolodziejczyk, Jaroslaw Staniek, and Betty Q keep the musical numbers the spectacles they should be, even if some of the lyrics don’t really do much to move the plot along.
What plot there is, director Agnieszka Smoczyńska carries her cast through Robert Bolesto’s screenplay at a rapid fire pace. Mazurek and Olszanska keep the viewer titillated enough to make up for some of the dopier aspects — like run ins with Triton who wants to steal one of the sisters away, while the other is caught up in a love affair with one of the band members. The Lure may not be perfect, but it’s definitely set on becoming a new cult classic. Oddly enough, this one isn’t featured in the Midnight section but in the World Dramatic. That’s probably because it’s so much better than The Greasy Strangler that it would be unfair to lump them side-by-side. And, considering this is Smoczyńska’s first film, I can only imagine where her career will go from here.
Photos courtesy Sundance Institute