Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Film Festival: Elijah Wood's extreme makeover

Elijah Wood talks to Chris Schulz about The Greasy Strangler, a weird festival entry.
A scene from Jim Hosking's The Greasy Strangler.
A scene from Jim Hosking's The Greasy Strangler.

"Jeepers," says Elijah Wood. "Oh My God."

He's been asked to describe his new movie, and he's struggling.

There's a lengthy pause, then, this: "It's disturbing, it's gross and it's really funny."

Also: "It's certainly going to upset some people."

His words barely begin to describe the sick and twisted world of The Greasy Strangler.

A horror-comedy co-produced by Kiwi film-maker Ant Timpson and Wood's production studio Spectrevision, it's chock full of gross-out toilet humour, repetitive catch-phrases and big-screen buffoons.

Warns Wood: "You're in for a lot of penises and a variety of bodily functions."

It is easily the strangest thing playing at this year's International Film Festival.

Directed by first-timer Jim Hosking, The Greasy Strangler follows the father-and-son team of Big Ronnie and Brayden.

They live together, work together, and are chasing the same woman -- together.

One of them may also be a serial killer who likes to murder people while coated in cooking fat.

As Wood explains: "It's ultimately a comedy. It's about a father and a son who live together way past the point which a father and son should.

"There's a sweetness to the film. Ultimately I find the characters at the heart of it, particularly Brayden, really endearing."

Wood has taken on edgier roles since his role as Frodo in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, including a cannibal in 2005's Sin City and a serial killer in 2012's Maniac.

He's currently filming a TV adaptation of Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently novels in Vancouver, which he describes as "insane".

But you won't see him on screen in The Greasy Strangler. As producer, he played a behind-the-scenes role, one that was crucial in getting the film made.

Timpson, the man behind shockfests such as The ABCs of Death and Deathgasm, sent the script to Wood, who immediately fell in love with it.

"I started quoting the movie in text messages to Ant," laughs Wood.

"I sent it to my producing partners and they loved it as well, and that was kind of it.

"We all felt that a movie like this wouldn't get made if we didn't really get behind it."

For all Wood's enthusiasm, The Greasy Strangler is not a film for everyone.

Critics have mixed opinions. For every review that calls it "a playful oasis of filth and depravity" (The Guardian), there's another that calls it "a stomach-churning cinematic endurance test" (HeyUGuys). The Hollywood Reporter was particularly offended: "In addition to being repulsive, it's a witless bore."

And its Sundance debut was particularly feisty, with The Hollywood Reporter listing several walkouts.

Wood admits that some people "f***ing hate it".

"It's gross to some people. It tries their patience. But it's funny: the things that people hate are often what others love about it."

Either way, Wood loves their extreme reactions and says it's exactly the kind of one-off genre movie he wants to make more of.

What: The Greasy Strangler

Where and when: Screening as part of the International Film Festival: July 28, Event Cinemas, Queen St; July 30, SkyCity Theatre, 10.15pm

- Weekend magazine

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