Sun Choke (review) is a dark and disturbing film about a recovering mental patient (Sarah Hagan) who is forced to endure a bizarre health regimen by her caretaker (Barbara Crampton). We caught up with Crampton to get the goods on the film, and here’s what she had to say.
Dread Central: You’ve gotten some great accolades for Sun Choke at festivals, and the horror community is embracing it even though it’s very, very arty – definitely not a slasher. What’s your take on its success?
Barbara Crampton: People seem to really like it and I’m surprised by that because, first of all, I do think it is a good movie, but I think the subject matter is very dark and, you know, I heard from a few people, especially when we premiered at the Stanley Film Festival… how much they just went crazy for the movie because they thought the movie was intense, and they talked about the performances were great, and a kind of new voice that came from nowhere on the horror scene. Even diehard horror fans who think they’d seen it all, like Sam Zimmerman [of Shudder], he’s like, “I really dig this movie.” So anyway, it is definitely a different kind of movie that I’ve never done before.
DC: When you read a script for a movie that’s so visual and artistic, can you tell at all what the end result might look like?
BC: Ben Cresciman [the director] and I talked about that a little bit, but not being on the writing side of it, I really wasn’t privy to the fact that it was going to be so artistic. I didn’t really get that from the script and I think there were a lot of things that he did in the moment. While we were on set and on location with the birds, it turned out with different metaphors using different beautiful lenses and you know, cutting to the blood going down a drain. I mean, those were things I didn’t really pick up on as we were shooting. I was more focused on my character and how my character interacts with the other ladies. But I was surprised by some of the artistic elements. I think it really works for this because it gives enough balance, you know; in truth it takes the edge off the subject matter and how difficult the subject matter is, something a little bit more artistic and beautiful.
DC: You and Sarah have a good chemistry onscreen… did the two of you have a lot of time to rehearse or not?
BC: We really had to let it happen organically because I didn’t meet her until we started working together. I don’t even remember where our first scenes were… maybe it was sitting in the kitchen and I was reading a book. Those were some of the first scenes and then I was checking her calls… I think that was one of the second scenes that we shot so really just working on a few scenes with Ben. We started to find our rhythm but we had to find it pretty quickly because we didn’t know one another and you know we hadn’t really rehearsed or anything and so we were just both kind of thrown together, which is fine. I mean, it’s really nice when you can rehearse. I always advocate for that, but we didn’t, and so you do your best and you try to create a relationship as quickly as possible and just listen to the other actor. You know what your character has to do so you don’t have to over-think, but yeah, the first day always feel a little rocky. I think we clicked into something with one another in a very short amount of time.
DC: You’ve been getting some doctor and scientist roles lately…
BC: Well, I played a doctor in From Beyond so I had that going for me. That was quite a long time ago but in Sun Choke I’m a caretaker and in these upcoming movies (Death House and Replace) I do play a doctor. I just like to play all different aspects of a personality that I have the opportunity to play, so I hate to feel like would be repeating myself if I do a few similar things. I feel really lucky that lately I has been able to play a few different kind of roles, but being a little bit older now, it’s kind of obvious for me to play more of a caretaker role or a doctor, somebody in a more leadership position.
DC: What would like the viewers’ takeaway to be after they watch Sun Choke?
BC: Well, you know, the movie is about depression and isolation and loneliness and mental illness, and they’re not pretty subjects. I hope potentially that they’ll watch this movie and see a dynamic performance in Sarah Hagan; she’s just a delight to watch in every scene as dark and crippling as it is. I also hope that perhaps people will have a little more empathy with people who are going through mental illness and also for people who are taking care of those people who are ill and need constant supervision. I tried to show that my character has some flaws in taking care of somebody who is mental ill and, you know, sort of giving over her life to that task. What is it like for somebody who cares for the mentally ill? I think it’s a movie that hopefully people will come away with having a little bit of insight into what it’s like to be really severely mentally disturbed, and also I hope they have fun with the movie because there’s some really chilling and cool aspects to it. Lastly, I hope they welcome Ben Cresciman into the horror community, and I hope to see more work from him.
Look for the film on VOD now!
Written and directed by Ben Cresciman (Negative Space), Sun Choke stars iconic horror film actress Barbara Crampton (You’re Next, Re-Animator, Lords of Salem), Sarah Hagan (“Freaks and Geeks,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), and Sara Malakul Lane (17 & Life: Jailbait, Kickboxer: Vengeance) along with Evan Jones, Joe Nieves, and Jim Boeven. The film features a haunting score by noted musician/producer Boom Bip (aka Bryan Hollon) and is produced by Georg Kallert, Rob Schroeder, and Peter J. Nieves of Lodger Films with Wandie Kabule, Leigh Jones, and Ian Keiser.
Janie (Sarah Hagan) is just trying to get well. As Janie recovers from a recent violent psychotic break, she’s 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 an obsession with a young woman, Savannah (Sarah Malakul Lane), to whom Janie feels an inexplicable yet profound connection. The obsession turns increasingly invasive and wedges all three women into an ever-tightening and terrifying struggle for control. Will Janie pull herself back from the precipice of insanity? Or will she go over head-first, taking everyone down with her?