Choke, The (DVD)

Starring Sean Cook, Sam Prudhomme, Brooke Bailey, Tom Olson, Wonder Russell, Bee Simonds, Andrew Parker

Directed by Juan A. Mas

It’s odd. Usually my problem with slasher flicks is that more thought went into the kills than the characters. In the case of The Choke, the characters are surprisingly well fleshed out but the slasher portion of the film tends to fall flat. If the film had the suspense or the thrills equal to the entertainment value of the characters then this would have been something really special.

The Choke is shockingly well acted considering it’s composed of a cast of unknowns with no other film credits. The screenwriters, both female – rather unusual for a horror movie – deserve credit for actually coming up with some genuinely witty dialogue. The director even deserves some credit for at least making it a well shot film. Unfortunately, it’s also another one of these slasher films with a group of people trapped together in a confined space that constantly feel the need to split up and lurk about. In this film they lose a cast member, regroup, split up again, lose another cast member, regroup, split up yet again, etc. The phrase “strength in numbers” is completely foreign to these people.

The Choke is the name of the rock band fronted by pretty boy Dylan who is planning to leave the band and the state itself for a solo career. Only guitarist band mate Mike knows since he is set to join Dylan for bigger and better things. The Choke are set for what will be their final performance, something unbeknownst to goth guitarist London and high strung drummer Nancy Boy, both of whom Mike and Dylan feel are holding them back. Joining them for the gig at Club 905 is Dylan’s camcorder obsessed brother, Eliot, and Dylan’s girlfriend Jonesy. The Choke find themselves unable to perform due to Mike seemingly no-showing the gig, which is actually due to him getting a power drill through the chest in the film’s opening minutes. This does not sit well with Guy Johnson, the pretentious young owner of Club 905, but he has a bigger problem once the alcohol runs out. With no booze and no band, everyone splits. Oh, and Guy’s heavily tattooed rock groupie girlfriend Starr seemingly has eyes for Dylan.

My two personal favorite characters were the perpetually surly goth guitarist chick who’s obsessed with death but when she finally sees a dead body for real she’s suddenly not so glib. Then there’s Nancy Boy, the desperately in need of Ritalin drummer that wields his drumsticks like deadly weapons and whose manner of speaking can only be described as a vomatorium of Joss Whedon-speak. Believe me, I mean that in a good way, although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look forward to seeing him get off’d. There are definitely some fun performances to be found in The Choke.

Things go from bad to worse when another groupie that had been seen hitting on Dylan earlier is found disemboweled, and then it turns out that the members of The Choke, Eliot, Jonesy, Guy, and Starr are all locked in the club/warehouse with whoever committed the murder, and they’re not done yet. That whoever just might be the crazy homeless guy that managed to sneak in before the trouble started – or maybe it’s one of them.

Like I said, the slasher side of the story is the film’s weakest aspect, although I must admit that seeing some of the characters getting killed with their own band instruments was kind of clever. Mostly though, the deaths and the build up to them leave a lot to be desired. It also takes forever to get going; three kills in 50 minutes is definitely stretching things out for a slasher flick. The dialogue is only able to make up for the lack of action for so long. Eventually, you just wish the killer would kick things into high gear already.

Another major problem is that even knowing they’re trapped in this building with a killer that’s picking them off one at a time, most of them behave far too calmly to be realistic. During one of their regroupings they spend several minutes quite literally sitting around like a bunch of bored teenagers with nothing to do, engaging in far too casual conversations about topics that have nothing to do with the life or death situation they’re in. For some reason I can’t imagine the practicality of a boyfriend-girlfriend getting into a squabble about how long she’s been making him hold out for sex just moments after several of their best friends have been brutally slaughtered.

The DVD contains an extra called “The Choke: The Legend Begins”, a short mockumentary about the history of the band and the fallout from the events of the film. I dare say this faux rockumentary with all of the film’s actors still in full character mode is more entertaining than the movie itself. If the movie maintained the breezy nature of this short then The Choke really would have been something special.

I can’t wholeheartedly recommend The Choke because it is a bit too ponderous for its own good but there is definitely some fun to be had here. Worth a rental assuming you’re not too discriminating.

2 ½ out of 5

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Jon Condit

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