Sun Choke is the second feature by writer/director Ben Cresciman. This horror/thriller follows in the footsteps of other abstract films of late such as Darling and Proxy. Like these examples, Sun Choke focuses on the deep-rooted dysfunction of an individual character, rather than the tangible horror of demons or killers.
The story follows Janie (Sarah Hagan), a young woman who lives under the control of the possessive Irma (Barbara Crampton). Irma gives Janie increasingly bizarre treatments for an unspecified condition. Irma subjects Janie to vile looking smoothies, magnets, and some grueling yoga sessions. Janie goes along with all of this until she is given some freedom. One day, Janie is allowed out and she spots Savannah (Sara Malakul Lane), and initially mistakes her for a doppleganger. Feeling drawn to Savannah, Janie begins to follow her every chance she gets. She attempts to assume her character. As her obsession grows, so do her violent inclinations. This sets all three women on a blood soaked path of madness.
The film features bold performances from all three women. Barbara Crampton is particularly compelling as the caretaker whose motives are never quite clear. Sarah Hagan’s performance compliments Crampton’s. Hagan rocks between wounded naivete and animalistic insanity. Sara Malakul Lane completes the triangle with her sexy and compassionate demeanor.
Sun Choke may appeal to a rather select crowd, but those with a taste for psychological arthouse are bound to love it. The film is most reminiscent of Bergman’s Persona. There are many parallels including an exchange of personality and the bitter love/hate relationship between a patient and a caretaker. While Sun Choke may not be Persona, it is a great film in its own right. It is full to the brim of layered characters, poetic images, and unrelenting tension. This is a film that sticks with the viewer and demands to be analyzed and explored.
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