Warning: this film contains nudity, sex, and violence.
CAPSULE: A young woman is held prisoner in a fancy house while she goes through what seems to be some sort of a de-programming. She tests the tight limits on her freedom and plans how to escape to the outer world. Intercut with her present situation, we see moments in Janie's past that slowly give clues to how the situation we are seeing came about. As time goes by the restrictions on Janie are first loosened and then again tightened. The pace is a little slow, but writer/director Ben Cresciman holds our attention. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Some mystery films are "who-done-it's." SUN CHOKE is a mystery, but it is more a "what's-going-on." We see through the eyes of Janie (played by Sarah Hagan), fogged as her vision is. Janie is being kept prisoner in a very nice upscale home, but she is being put through what appears to be some sort of involuntary psychological testing and a deprogramming. We know not for what.
The home that is Jamie's prison is sterile and decorated entirely in white in all the rooms. The more time that Janie spends there the more she is determined to escape, and she does not mind dirtying those bright white walls a little along the way. Jamie's revolt will lift her from this tidy, colorless background to a place considerably more primal.
Janie's life is ruled over with quiet, well-ordered menace from her therapist Irma (actually unnamed until the final credits). Irma (icily played by Barbara Crampton) administers tests to Janie and psychoanalyzes her. The patient does not have a moment of real freedom. Irma is sort of a New Age Nurse Ratched, so she and Jamie have an adversarial relationship. Part of her regimen is feeding Janie what look to be brightly colored but uninviting concoctions from the blender--all part of some holistic treatment including forced Yoga exercises and silly looking psychological tests. The younger woman is compliant, but there are signs she will not be for long. Part of Janie's rebellion is her revolt against the overly pristine environment in which she is imprisoned. When the time comes, Janie is allowed out of the house by herself. There she is fascinated by nature with its color and even with earthworms covered with dirt itself.
Something attracts Janie about one woman in particular she sees. Janie becomes fascinated just to drive around and watch this other women, Savannah (Sara Malakul Lane). The house just shouts Los Angeles hills, though we are never told where the story takes place. Ben Cresciman writes and directs his own film. The first half of the film goes slowly, giving out a clue here and one there for why what is happening is happening. Mathew Rudenberg provides some disorienting effects showing psychological conditions in the cinematography.
Not all questions that the script raises will be answered, nor do they need to be. We are given only hints of the back-story, but the viewer is free to connect the dots any way he likes. This is a short film at 83 minutes, but it is intense images are strong and will stick with the viewer. I rate it a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. The film will be released to general theaters on August 5.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3395582/combined
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/sun_choke/?search=sun%20choke
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper