“We Are The Flesh” vs “The Greasy Strangler”: A Battle of Art and Wankery
Wow. I kinda don’t know where to start on this. These are two movies I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since seeing them. Both are undeniably odd, almost unspeakably disgusting, but one seems to be a legitimate artistic work while the other seems to be the cinematic version of “Scrotie McBoogerballs” (it’s a South Park reference. Look it up.).
First, let’s do a quick recap of each film. Spoilers ahead.
“We Are The Flesh” is a Mexican film from 26 yr-old writer/director Emiliano Rocha Minter — with this being his first feature film. The movie takes place almost solely in a run-down building, where a man, Mariano, is inside creating his own gasoline and trading it for food through a door to person(s) unknown, until one day, Lucio and Fauna — siblings in their early 20s — show up after wandering the city for weeks. They stay with Mariano and agree to work for him, building a makeshift cave/womb out of paper, wood, and packing tape. Then, we’ll just run down the list of things that happen in the remainder of the film…Mariano convinces the siblings to commit incest while he masturbates over top of them, and dying when he climaxes. Fauna has sex with the dead body days after they’ve abandoned it. Mariano comes back to life. They kidnap a soldier and murder him for his blood and ‘exquisite substances.’ They kidnap and rape a woman. Mariano asks them all to eat his flesh so he can live in them, which begins a blood orgy and ends with everyone asleep, but then one man walking outside the building and into a fully-functioning, bustling city. That all happens in UNDER 80 minutes.
“The Greasy Stranger” is a 2016 film from Jim Hosking — this is his first feature, as well. The film is about a father, Ronnie, and his son, Brayden, who run a Disco walking tour. Ronnie and Brayden don’t get along; mostly because Ronnie is a jerk to almost everyone he meets, including the people who have paid for his walking Disco tour (ugh…). There is a person in their town, the titular Greasy Strangler, who is a naked man, covered in grease, who goes around murdering people via strangulation. One of the people to take the walking Disco tour (UGH + EYE ROLL) is Janet, who starts a relationship with Brayden, is then wooed by Ronnie and his giant phallus, only to go back to Brayden. At the end, after much abuse, Brayden covers himself in grease and kills Janet and then lives in the woods with his father to murder people as Greasy Stranglers. I guess. Whatever.
I obviously thought more highly of “We Are The Flesh” than “The Greasy Strangler” (referred to as WATF and TGS from here on out). And it might not be for the reason you think. It’s not because I like SERIOUS weird movies better — actually, movies that are this odd I usually can’t stand. My favorite David Lynch films are the ones that are more accessible (“Blue Velvet,” “The Elephant Man,” “Dune” [DON’T YOU JUDGE ME!]) than his more abstract work (I really, really, REALLY don’t like “Eraserhead.” Sorry.). So, while I was initially surprised I liked WATF at all, after a bit of thought, I realized WHY I liked it: it’s art.
Normally, labeling something as ‘art’ is a get-out-of-jail-free card; it allows you to dismiss any critical analysis or non-sequitur as being just a part of the the artistic creation and not meant for a literal view. However, where as TGS seemed to be a bit like a gross-out version of “Napoleon Dynamite,” where it’s just someone pointing at the screen, saying “LOOK HOW WEIRD THIS IS!!! ISN’T THAT WEIRD AND FUNNY?!? OH LOOK! IT’S A BIG DICK! AND NOW IT’S A SMALL DICK! FUNNY!!!!” — WATF comes across as a deliberate, singular vision expressing SOMETHING. What that something is, I’m not sure. I’ve read other reviews saying the moment they sing the Mexican national anthem before slitting the man’s throat says something about Mexican culture now — and it might. But I’m just a dumb gringo and don’t know about such things.
At one point in TGS, Janet and Ronnie shout “Hootie Tootie Disco Cutie!” for 90 seconds. That’s One-And-One-Half-Minutes. And it’s almost intolerable. This movie feels more like a Tim & Eric movie than the ACTUAL Tim & Eric movie. And I DO NOT say that in a good way. TGS seems more ineterested in TRYING to be kitschy, weird, and retro than it does with telling an interesting story with interesting and likable characters. And while the characters in WATF might not be likable (they really, really, really aren’t), they are so interesting I can’t stop thinking about them. I want to know where they came from, why the siblings are so quick to follow Mariano’s madness, where did Mariano come from, for that matter? Geez, there’s SO MUCH to unpack in WATF we could talk about it forever and never come up with a solid answer because the only one who knows FOR SURE what that movie means is the creator.
Meanwhile, TGS doesn’t seem to have a point or a message; it’s just a stream of ‘oh this would be weird and funny.’
Also, for almost 90 seconds, a character says, “potato” in an Indian accent while another asks him to repeat himself until a third man (after a full minute of this repetition) says “potato” clearly and then they all laugh for half-a-minute. That’s the movie.
WATF feels like a slice of hell delivered to us after being indoctrinated into a cult and asked to castrate ourselves. It honestly feels like a nightmare; a beautiful, surreal, brilliant nightmare.
TGS feels like a stoned college film student wanted to do something dumb only he and his roommates found funny just to annoy the professor who didn’t like his work.
And, yet…I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I saw it. So, maybe I’m wrong.