M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Six of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2015 and going through September 30, 2016. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on August 5, 2016. Available on DVD, BluRay, and On Demand from Lodger Films! Also streaming on Amazon Prime and Tubi!

SUN CHOKE (2015)

Directed by Ben Cresciman
Written by Ben Cresciman
Starring Sarah Hagan, Barbara Crampton, Sara Malakul Lane, Evan Jones, Joe Nieves, William Nicol, Annie Read

FREAKS AND GEEKS nerd girl Sarah Hagan plays Janie, a sheltered and fragile young girl who, as we open the film, is undergoing one psychological test after another by what seems to be her mother Irma (RE-ANIMATOR’s Barbara Crampton). But the more time we spend with Janie and her “mother,” the more twisted things become as the tests and punishments Janie endures get more intense. We are made privy to a few snippets of why Irma is so focused on studying and testing Janie’s stability as we see Janie getting restrained by multiple people after being discovered covered in blood, but for the most part, all fingers point to Irma as the big bad of the film. Things get kind of complicated when Irma decides to let Janie out into public and do things on her own. It is at this point of the film when we see that Janie isn’t the timid victim she seems like in the first half of this film. Revealing anything more would not be fair to this nightmarish view into a very unwell mind.

When done well, psychological horror can hit you harder than a million gallons of blood and gore. This is the case with SUN CHOKE which from the beginning had me by the throat and never let go. Seeing Crampton’s Irma put an electrified dog collar on Janie and force her to do Yoga to calm her nerves is absolutely riveting. Janie’s thinly sliced sanity chipping away at the slightest breeze is entrancing as well. Crampton is electric here and proves that this beautiful actress may have some of her best performances in front of her—she certainly commands every scene she is in here.

But it’s Sarah Hagan that is the real surprise. She has an alien beauty to her than makes it hard to look away from her, even when she is doing the most despicable things. It seems as if she hasn’t aged since her stint as Millie Ketner on FREAKS AND GEEKS with her plain long brown hair and even plainer face that seems like it’s never worn makeup in her life. Seeing this delicate wallflower suddenly sprout thorns is gloriously engrossing to witness.

Director/writer Ben Cresciman tells an intimate tale of madness here. The film is soft and fragile one minute—pointed and harsh the next. It’ a film that defies expectations and is as dangerous as it is beautiful. Unfolding like an origami flower made of sandpaper, SUN CHOKE pulls you in and squeezes relentlessly until the twisted ending that will leave creases in your brain that will be impossible to smooth out.

Click here for the trailer!

THE 2015-2016 COUNTDOWN!

#28 – BASKIN

M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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