medicine is not enough for a tough case like the mysterious Janie. She really
requires hardcore anti-psychotic drugs. It is not like she has much of a
personality to water-down. Unfortunately, her minder prefers more Californian
treatments. The electrified dog collar is maybe not such a bad idea, but it
comes as too little, too late in Ben Cresciman’s weirdly intimate horror film Sun Choke (trailer here), which opens
today in Los Angeles.
Janie has had “incidents” in the past, but Cresciman plays it coy with respects
to the details, as he does with all backstory in general. Apparently, Janie has
been under the care of Irma, a longtime family servant (perhaps a former nurse
or nanny) for several years, because her father, who always seems to be abroad
on business, has essentially given up on her. Believing the yoga is finally
yielding positive results, Irma decides to reward Janie with some unsupervised
time outside of the house.
Janie immediately develops a psychotic fixation on Savannah, an underemployed
actress with an active love life. Soon she is stalking the young woman, breaking
into her apartment, and violently targeting her latest lover. Sensing Janie’s
relapse, Irma unleashes a severe battery of behavior modifying treatments, but
her charge is too far gone.
Sun Choke is a deliberately
discomfiting film in the Polanski tradition. Much of it is deceptively quiet
and stiflingly closely observed, but there is always a palpable threat of
violence following Janie like her shadow. It mostly works, thanks in large
measure to its terrific primary trio.
“scream queen” Barbara Crampton demonstrates why she is busy as ever these
days, with her complex, scary but not completely unsympathetic turn as Irma.
Sara Malakul Lane is poised to become a scream queen successor for the 2010s,
following up genre-friendly work in Pernicious
and Shortwave with her grounded and
sympathetically vulnerable portrayal of Savanah. In the showcase role, Sarah Hagen’s
Janie is so utterly squirrely, she unnerves the audience whenever she is
is a hard film to love, but genre fans will
immediately respect Cresciman’s vision and his command of mood and
mise-en-scene. He maintains a tight focus not so far removed from the one-set, limited-character
stage thriller, a la Death Trap or Wait Until Dark, except Choke is more ambiguous in all respects.
Intriguing, somewhat demanding, but rewarding for the bold and broad-minded, Sun Choke opens today (8/5) in Los
Angeles, at the Arena Cinema.
Labels: Barbara Crampton, Horror Movies, Sara Malakul Lane