Sun Choke Movie Review
Written by Giuseppe Infante
Released by XLrator Media
Written and directed by Ben Cresciman
2015, 83 minutes, Rated R
Released on August 5th, 2016
Sarah Hagan as Janie
Barbara Crampton as Irma
Sarah Malakul Lane as Savannah
Evan Jones as Booker
After Janie (Sarah Hagan) has a mental breakdown one year prior, her childhood caretaker, Irma (Barbara Crampton), helps her in rehabilitating. Janie’s treatment is different from what might be deemed customary due to the peculiar ruling by Irma at the pallid home. Day in and day out, the two practice yoga, drink green smoothies and consume what is most likely antipsychotic pills. As time passes, Irma allows Janie time to explore the world again, but only for a few hours at a time. Immediately, Janie becomes fixated on a random woman, Savannah, who has no clue she is being stalked for a significant amount of time. From there, Janie begins to lose control again, as her obsession leads her down a murky path among humanity and eventually at her domicile.
Sun Choke is an art-house chiller and strays from the conventional templates found in horror flicks. Strategically written and directed by Ben Cresciman, the film is loaded with mental health commentary, subtext and symbolism. If this isn’t how one likes a motion picture to be sculpted, Sun Choke shouldn’t be at the top of their ‘To Watch’ list. It should be on the list for the mere fact that halfway through, there is a major shift in gears and the speed doesn’t slow down until the credits roll. This makes up for the slow pacing of the first half, and the lack of buildup between Janie and Irma.
The past could’ve been more definitive, but all viewers really know is Irma promised Janie’s mother she’d look after her. Janie’s father communicates indirectly with Irma and we really don’t get much else. The flashback scenes are interesting, but ultimately don’t illuminate as strong as classic Italian horror films do. The finale, though, will satisfy viewers looking to walk away from the movie with a sense of fear and dread about mankind while questioning cognition and motivation of the human psyche. In this aspect, it succeeds in producing anxious trepidation.
Closure isn’t something necessary and in art house movies, don’t expect any. The case study on the characters would make for a phenomenal episode of the true crime podcast, Sword & Scale—if this were a true story. It’s not true, per say, but certainly grounded in reality. Sarah Hagan and Barbara Crampton are scary in their roles, embodying the balance of integrity and immorality. In contrast, Sarah Malakul Lane as Janie’s victim, Savannah, adds her innocent appearance to increase empathy and compassion for her character. Aside from a solid cast, the script and production quality add to the success of Sun Choke.
The next time I watch, if that ever happens, I may enjoy it more, as I know already how the plot unravels. This will allow more time to wear the analytical lens and watch with more scrutiny. The actions of the main characters are misleading, which is constructive and crucial for swaying viewers, but some more details about the two leading ladies could've been fleshed out to make the film stronger. Sun Choke psychoanalyzes human relationships, isolation, control and manic obsession, which are touchy topics for many. Crescimen handles this subject matter with all seriousness, while captivating some death scenes to certainly please the gorehounds. And whether you dig the movie or not, we are all feeding bodies to the gators hidden inside (as Stephen King alludes to when discussing anticivilization emotions in his essay, “Why We Crave Horror Movies”).