I imagine this film is a complete ‘indie’ dream for those who enjoy unanswered questions, vague storylines and dull scripts.

The theory is: Janie (Sarah Hagan) is recovering from a recent violent psychotic breakdown and is subjected each day to a bizarre holistic health and wellness regimen designed and enforced by her lifelong nanny and caretaker, Irma (Barbara Crampton).

Janie begins to veer off the road to recovery when she develops a deep obsession with a young woman, Savannah (Sara Malakul Lane), who Janie feels an inexplicable yet profound connection to.

On the plus side I can remember Sarah Hagan from the days of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, a show so bad it was good, so I do have some happy memories of her – unlike the ones I have from this film. To give her credit, Hagan has done a grand job with what she’s been given, it’s just that what’s she has been given is essentially nothing.

Barbara Crampton is entirely believable as what can only be described as a weirdly sociopathic nanny – oh how we needed more from her.

Sara Malakul Lane is spot-on as Savannah but in Sun Choke we are essentially just looking through the window at her. Everything needs to be developed and have a bit more… meat to it, really.

Whilst visually acceptable, if you enjoy super-clean houses and watching smoothie bubbles pop, the flick itself is slow and seems to go on forever. As soon as you think you’re out of the ridiculously sterile house, you’re back in it and part of Janie’s infernal routine again.

There are a grand total of three relevant characters throughout and the only one I remotely cared about wasn’t a massive part of it. The giant void was the lack of characters and relationships between them. The sole relationship there was, between Janie and Irma, was barely touched on and seemed completely lacking in substance.

For all its boredom and misery, Sun Choke does a great job of honing in on the isolation that surrounds and envelops Janie – but surely that can’t be the entire point of the film, can it? Apparently it can.

The scenes are mostly Janie with Irma, Janie stalking someone or Janie in her ritual. Yep, that’s the theme here, Janie. It wouldn’t have been as bad if there was a history to her, or even something hinting at her future beyond escaping that damn house.

One of the best ways I can describe the film is to compare it to a Dido album – a bit miserable, a bit bland and leaves you wondering what on earth you’re doing with your life putting yourself through it.

As the film ended I was left with no idea as to why Janie had her breakdown, where her dad is, who Irma really was, what sun choke means or where this creepy ritual came from in the first place.

I have no idea what the film is doing as part of Fright Fest, there’s nothing frightening or horror-related about it, really. At a push I could maybe describe it as a ‘psychological thriller’, if thrillers were bland and in no-way thrilling.

The lack of answers was ultimately a decision made by writer-director Ben Cresciman and it just didn’t float my boat. More substance for me if you please.

 

Frightfest London review: Sun Choke
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