Writer-director Ben Cresciman's second feature, Sun Choke, premiered at the Stanley Film Festival this weekend. It's a film that's not easy to describe: imagine a fever dream sprung from the mind of an unreliable narrator that is both a murderer, an epileptic, and figures somewhere on the autism or Asperger's spectrum, and you get Sun Choke.
Starring Sarah Hagan (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Freaks and Geeks), Barbara Crampton (You're Next, Re-Animator), and Sara Malakul Lane (12/12/12, Sharktopus), Sun Choke takes place in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles. Hagan's Janie is being tenuously led back to health by Crampton's Irma while her father stays overseas for months working.
We see a few flashbacks involving what looks to be a murder scene at home as well as a rape, but these memories are never explained. In fact, Sun Choke doesn't explain a lot of things, namely motivations for Janie's psychosis, and that will be divisive to viewers. Fans of David Lynch's Mulholland Drive may find something to like in the pervading isolation of the great big house on the hill, as well as in the strange, obsessive sequences. Have they really happened or has Janie dreamed them up? Why is this woman not in a psychiatric ward? We may never know.
Crampton utilizes some tough love and puts in an impressive performance as Janie's lifelong nanny caretaker. Hagan portrays an eerily effective psychopath with nuances galore, and Malakul Lane is quite believable as the well-meaning woman that Janie is obsessed with.
As for visuals, the film is beautifully shot by Mathew Rudenberg, and is worth checking out for his lens work alone. Wonderfully rendered images of dying chicken fetuses and blood clouds spiraling into water make the sickening almost lovely. Sun Choke isn't a film for everyone, but for those who like to color outside the lines, there is an allure to the abstract.