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  Sun Choke Housebound HorrorBuy this film here.
Year: 2015
Director: Ben Cresciman
Stars: Sarah Hagan, Sara Malakul Lane, Barbara Crampton, Christina Amber, Jim Boeven, Evan Jones, Riley Litman, William Nicol, Joe Nieves, Daisy O’Dell, Annie Read, Don Oscar Smith, Derek Bevil, Diana Nguyen, Mary Cseh
Genre: Horror, Weirdo
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Janie (Sarah Hagan) is not a well woman, she has recently suffered a breakdown that has seen her confined to her home, which is a swanky pad but one she is forced to share with Irma (Barbara Crampton), the nanny who brought her up and is now her keeper in adulthood as the world proves too much for Janie to cope with. However, the guardian does seem to have been given curious instructions as to how best to look after her charge, including tests that would appear to be better suited to a child such as colouring in flowers on a page as a method of determining her mood, and Janie is apparently not ready to enter the reality outside the walls of her home as of yet, not with bad memories bubbling up in her broken mind...

There was a movement in drama and horror that saw Ingmar Bergman's strange, psychological work Persona become an influence, whether consciously or whether because the effect of that Swedish effort was growing in power as the Western world was increasingly affected by mental health difficulties or outright identity crises brought about by a deep-running confusion or conflict about what you were meant to be as perceived by others or yourself. There had been rumblings of this becoming more important with the canon of David Lynch with his weirdo experiences Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, but come the new millennium, mental imbalance was the in thing in pop culture.

Be that in art house films like Queen of Earth or more mainstream such as Noah Hawley's twisting of the Marvel superhero tropes on television with the divisive Legion, but here was writer and director Ben Cresciman with something more obscure to bring to the table, an oblique horror that implemented various go crazy and get violent clichés and applied them to a careful meditation on what it would be like to see the world from the perspective of a fractured mind. This would be a dubious prospect without the interplay between Hagan and Crampton, the latter enjoying a renaissance in indie chillers, not exactly a mascot, more a highly respected figurehead from the eighties heyday of splatter shockers here giving her blessing to a new generation.

Crampton's presence meant a lot in these films, and arguably she served up better performances in these latter day works than she was ever required to back when she was making a name for herself in the likes of Re-Animator, though she was always capable of them, that much was plain. Here she played up the creepiness, not allowing us an identifying character to guide us through Janie's illness, thereby forcing us to see the story through her eyes rather than anyone sane. If indeed Irma was sane at all, or if she actually existed, or if she existed at some point in the past she might not exist now, and so on; it was a very difficult film to pin down, purposefully so, therefore the very person who could genuinely help Janie turns into a smothering monster in her view, restricting her freedom to stern degrees.

Mind you, that could be a sensible course of action given what Janie does when she actually gets out from under Irma's thumb and into the wider environment: stalking, basically. She is obsessed with Savannah (Sara Malakul Lane) who she encounters on her first time out since the breakdown, and ends up breaking into her house as if jealous of this normal woman whose ordinary life she covets. It was she who Janie wishes to meld with to become a different, more capable individual, though we can tell - and she cannot - that this is a terrible idea that will never succeed, not that anyone is able to advise her against it since the medical assistance she is receiving is no help whatsoever, she is just a lot sicker than anyone could have had an inkling of, no matter the flashbacks that indicate a violent past. These were perhaps the most regrettable element, inviting the audience to be frightened of the crazy lady which was about as conducive to understanding and de-stigmatising as many of the so-called psycho movies, but Cresciman conjured a surface sheen that at least made it intriguing to stick with for its relatively brief duration. Music by Bryan Hollon.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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