A serial killer covered in grease strangles his victims until their eyes literally pop out of their heads. He then goes naked to a car wash to clean off the grease. A father and son antagonise each other constantly, the old man eventually steals his son’s girlfriend thanks, in no small part, to his big part. Elsewhere, a strange plain-clothed gentlemen promises a night of magical entertainment, something which may or may not include songs about referees sung in a Scottish accent. Finally some hired muscle ends up falling for the quarry he has been sent to retrieve cash from, wooing her with lengthy stories about his childhood:
“Mother decided to give me these candies I was crazy about whenever do dos would come out in doors. Whenever I went poopy inside, I would run down the hallway yelling grammy come and look in the bowl, and then we would all gather round the bowl and look inside and count the doc doos. And guess what? She would give me a piece of candy for every piece of poo poo I would produce, one time I got 14 pieces of candy.”
Welcome to the world of Jim Hosking. The director, who had a clutch of shorts and a segment in the ABCs of Death 2 horror anthology under his belt, made a rather messy splash with 2017’s The Greasy Strangler. Following this up, Hosking veers into different but equally bizarre territory with his latest outing: ‘An Evening With Beverly Life Linn.’
Whereas his full-length debut was rooted in horror films (before moving into something altogether weirder), ‘An Evening With…’ is a romantic comedy. Despite its emotionally moving qualities, characteristic of its genre, Hosking directs in trademark other-worldly fashion. Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts it ain’t.
With his second feature, the British-born Hosking is edging towards the mainstream. Bigger Hollywood names are apparently queuing up to work with him, continuing the trans-Atlantic theme of both films. Or not, as the case may be: although Greasy… had a relatively unknown cast, others were keen.
"I had well known actors wanting to work in Strangler,” Hosking says. “I wanted that film to be filled with unknowns. I think in general actors want to work in exciting projects. So they liked the Luff Linn script. That¹s what they respond to. As far as the influence of The Greasy Strangler on them, I don’t know…”
The Greasy Strangler certainly did announce his arrival in a brash, loud and oftentimes revolting way. From the excessive nylon and other man made fibres on display, through to more outré moments, it was not always easy to handle. But Hosking says it could have been worse:
“I was too close to the film when it came out. I have some distance now and I’m proud of what we all did and it gives people something they’re not getting elsewhere so I understand why some people loved it. I understand why some people hate it also.”
“In a way I wish I had made the film more extreme. I cut loads of dirty dialogue and sex stuff out because I thought the film appeared to be made by a chronically ill frustrated pervert and I felt ashamed. But now I think it¹s what the world needs.”
Both films boast a hugely distinctive look. You get the feeling that Hosking is keeping a beady eye on every aspect of the film, from the script onwards. It’s something he readily admits.
“It’s the reason I make my films. I pay attention to every single detail. The film has my name on it. I work with people whose taste I love and then we all work together to create something.”
He’s forming what appears to be a tight-knit group of collaborators too.
“I don’t strive for that necessarily. I work again with the people that I feel I love to work with and who I want more from. And then some roles I like to switch out when I feel I need to refresh things a little. There is no grand plan. It’s fun though to get the band back together and there’s an understanding there. The flipside is that working with new people means they bring something entirely new to it without feeling like they know what you want. And that’s liberating.”
Chief among these is Andrew Hung, from Fuck Buttons, who has gone from toy town discotheque. As Hosking explains, there’s no grand plan for his career:
“I love working with Andy. Some projects feel completely right for him. I think we are very good friends and we respect the way that each other works and it’s a very reciprocal arrangement. We also like to meet up to talk about The Cranberries and why he likes them because I don’t understand that.”
Not only do Hosking’s films have a distinctive style, existing in their own oddball universe, but what’s more, there’s a feeling that his vision is unencumbered by commercial constraints. There’s no watering down of what he’s doing, and he appears to have achieved what is so often rare for a filmmaker: the chance to do exactly as he pleases.
“I naively imagine that everybody will be excited by what I do,” he explains. “I find it strange that my films don’t play in more cinemas. I find the majority of films in cinemas to be predictable. I like being surprised. I don’t need to watch weird stuff. I just like people doing their own things. I’m into very quiet slow films very often that feel personal to the filmmaker and I like to watch films from around the world because it feels like travel. I don’t watch many mainstream films, I feel they¹re produced by committee.”
Produced by committee is one thing that no-one could accuse Hosking of, similarly, the director notes, you couldn’t say there was some grand scheme involved in what he’s doing.
“I have no career plan. That feels totally boring to me. I don’t know how a film will turn out. Or how people will perceive it. Or how I will feel in a month.”
“[An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn] is just what we wrote then and I wanted to direct it. It felt like it came from my heart and it was romantic funny touching antagonising and frustrating just like life. I don’t want to have a traditional career. So I don’t try to structure it in a traditional way. I want it all to feel like a grand magical surprise.”
So what’s next then? Will there be another change of genre or another wild mood swing? Hosking’s not saying anything specific yet.
“I've got a few things in the pipeline. My main intention is to make a film that is very romantic and mysterious and I want to fall in love and ride with my sweetheart on the most fragrant of camels through a desert of rose coloured sand. Is that too much to ask?”
An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn is in cinemas and available to own now.