Grindhouse film Squealer isn’t perfect, but may get Social Work right

Apr 29, 2024

By Greg Wright, NASW Communications Director

Squealer, a movie streaming on Apple TV, Prime Video and other platforms, is your typical Grindhouse film. Low budget with a big heaping of violence, gore and nudity.

But although the plot is predictable and the acting leaves a bit to be desired, the film does offer one positive – the social worker role is pretty badass.

In the film, actor and stunt performer Danielle Burgio stars as Lisa, a social worker who works with women who are sex workers. When Lisa notices these women are disappearing and there could be a serial killer afoot, she demands her estranged husband and policeman Jack (actor Wes Chatham from the sci-fi series The Expanse) and colleague Paul (actor and singer Tyrese Gibson from the Fast and Furious films) investigate.

Social worker Lisa (Danielle Burgio), right, tries to convince her husband and policeman Jack (Wes Chatham), left, that a murderer may be targeting sex workers she helps, including Sadie (Sydney Carville), center. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.

But since many of the women are drifters or have substance use issues, at first no one takes Lisa’s concerns seriously. So she does her own investigating, which eventually puts Lisa face to face with a serial killer connected to a local hog farm (well, the name of the movie is Squealer).

According to at least one news report, the film is based on Canadian serial killer Robert Pickton, who was a pig farmer and possible cannibal.

However, many viewers may not realize the film’s depiction of social workers working to empower people who are unhoused, or sex workers, or survivors of human trafficking is very accurate.

And social workers are often the first to alert authorities when they think a client who is vulnerable is a victim of crime.

An example is California social worker Judy Moise, a former street counselor for people who lived with a substance use disorder or mental illness.

Moise developed a bond with client Alberto Gonzalez and helped him find housing in a rooming house run by Dorothea Puente in Sacramento. When Gonzalez, who lived with a mental illness, inexplicably disappeared from the boarding house, Moise urged police to investigate and even filed a missing person’s report.

This led to police discovering that Puente – who everyone thought was a sweet, charitable lady – had killed nine of her boarders, buried many of the bodies in her backyard, and continued to collect Social Security benefits. The fact her boarders were people who were older adults or living with a disability made her crimes even more heinous.

At least one news report speculates that Puente tried to lure Moise back to the house to kill the social worker to get investigators off her trail.

So although Squealer many not be on the level of The Godfather or Remains of the Day, it does depict social workers as being the risk-taking heroes they often are.

To learn more about how social workers help people seeking to overcome life’s challenges, visit