Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its sixth year in October! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers, I have once again compiled a list counting down to my favorite horror film released since last October and covered in this here AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Some of these films might be new to you since there isn’t a lot of horror in theaters these days. That said, there were more on this list that DID have a theatrical run than in previous years which means the horror genre does seem to be on the upswing. Some of these films have only seen the light of day on Video On Demand or simply go straight to DVD/BluRay or digital download.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year since October 1st, 2015 (which happens to be the birthday of this little column five years ago!) and worked and reworked the list until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each post that is worth nothing or missed being on the list by a little bit for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know how you liked the film I chose, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
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
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Last year, my favorite horror film of the year was PROXY, a complex tale of madness by inches from various points of view. So to say that SUN CHOKE reminded me of PROXY, to me, is the ultimate compliment for the film as it gave me the same feelings of dread, fascination, and complete unease that PROXY did one year ago.
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 here. 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.
#24 – SUN CHOKE
#25 – THE HALLOWS
#26 – OVER YOUR DEAD BODY
#27 – SUMMER CAMP
#28 – EMELIE
#29 – BASKIN
#30 – I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
#31 – SOUTHBOUND
2015 #1 – THE CANAL
2014 #1 – PROXY
2013 #1 - MANIAC
2012 #1 – THE WOMAN
2011 #1 – THE LAST CIRCUS
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 15 years & AICN HORROR for 5. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller and on his new website collecting posts for AICN HORROR as well as all of the most recent updates on his various comic book projects on MLMillerWrites.com.
A quick plug for my own work. I have a new comic book coming out this December called THE JUNGLE BOOK HOLIDAY SPECIAL: BAGHEERA’S SECRET. It’s a one shot reteaming my original JUNGLE BOOK artist Carlos Granda and myself (the same team who created PIROUETTE) and it is available to order now via Previews order# OCT162113. I’m getting pages of this book by the day and this book looks absolutely amazing so far. Fans of jungle adventure are going to love it! Please support me by telling your local comic book store to order tons of issues of this comic! Much appreciated, folks.
Look for Johnny Destructo, Stephen Andrade, Christian DiBari, and my own ramblings about random horror films on CultPop/PoptardsGo and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday (or so…)!