Written and directed by Ben Cresciman, Sun Choke is a completely female driven film where men are pretty much good for nothing. We have an absentee father, a token rapist and a guy who is only good for sex. Our ladies, on the other hand, are all strong women with some serious flaws.
Centering on Janie (Sarah Hagan), she is a woman under extreme and constant supervision in an effort to avoid another violent, psychotic breakdown. With her long, brown hair parted down the center and her meek, tiny voice she seems more like catnip for Ted Bundy than a woman to be concerned about and that is exactly what makes Hagan’s performance utterly compelling. Going toe to toe with her is the always excellent Barbara Crampton. Ms. Crampton is, basically, the Julia Roberts of the horror world. She’s our own “America’s Sweetheart” and to see her be an out and out cold hearted bitch is tons of fun. I’ve always loved her icy blonde Hitchcock hair and what an icy bitch she is in Sun Choke.
Taking place, mostly, in a quiet, cold and sterile house Irma (Crampton) uses some questionable holistic methods to heal Janie. Janie’s mother has long since passed and Irma took on the responsibility of raising Janie and we get some flashbacks, but nothing is explicitly explained and you’re not always sure how spot on the timeline is. All the better to bring you into Janie’s psychosis. After Irma decides that Janie has earned the right to leave the house, she begins following Savannah (Sara Malakul Lane) and her obsession escalates rather quickly. This obsession is strange and wide open for interpretation from the viewer. In fact, most actions and the drive behind them are open for interpretation all while presented in a very stripped down esthetic that feels open and claustrophobic all at once.
This is the kind of movie that you don’t reveal much about. It is something for each viewer to experience on their own. What I can tell you is that it’s a beautifully shot film that utilizes silence and slow pacing in a wonderfully unsettling manner. Relationships between women are always complex;especially when it comes to the caregiver role and this movie does not shy away from how truly toxic that can be. Hagan, Lane and Crampton all brought their A-game to this twisted world of female power struggles and neurosis. Crampton is especially hypnotic and her stellar performance is worth the ticket price alone. Sun Choke isn’t for everyone, but it’s a slowly unfolding thriller that made me feel sad, uncomfortable and a little bit shocked. I loved it.