Choke is a horror film that comes from director Gregory Hatanaka (Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance). The way the film flows, and the blurring between fiction and reality led to me not entirely 'getting' this movie. It seemed to me like it was over before it had really started, even if it does some interesting things. Things such as having duel protagonists who get equal amounts of screen time yet never meet, united by a girl they both know.
Brandon (Shane Ryan - the Amateur Porn Star Killer series of films) is a serial killer whose method of killing is by strangulation. He is quite a tortured man and seems unable to control himself. One day he meets a 17 year old girl, Jeanie (Sarah Brine - Heartbeat) on a train and forms an immediate connection to her. He sees her as an innocent, someone he is able to be himself around. Meanwhile, a troubled detective named Robert (Scott Butler - Zombie Night) who has a penchant for teenage girls begins a relationship with Jeanie, and in doing so corrupts her.
I spent much of my time watching Choke wondering how on earth I was going to be able to write a review about it. It is narrated by the character of Jeanie and establishes straight away that Brandon is a killer. You are never shown his serial killer moments as full scenes, instead there are montages of him strangling various girls that pop-up over the course of the film. At times I wasn't sure if any of these were actually real, or just in Brandon's mind as there are plenty of moments of him strangling Jeanie to death when she is obviously very much still alive. Robert, while not a killer is also a very flawed character. He is shown to be obsessed with an ex of his, and constantly contemplates suicide, then of course his strange relationship with a teenage girl. Both these protagonists share abstract dream sequences that have them chasing down people on a beach while naked. Didn't quite understand that part!
I felt like there was a message or meaning behind all that was going on, but I never understood what this was. Strangulation is a large part of this, as could be inferred from the film's title. While Brandon feels compelled to strangle, Jeanie happens to become addicted to getting strangled, independently of this man. Along the way she meets up with a therapist, Stephanie (Lisa London - 3 Wicked Witches), who introduces the girl to a guru who teaches people the pleasure of strangulation. It was all quite strange, while I am familiar with the concept of people feeling euphoric after awakening from being choked unconscious I still found myself lost quite a bit here. It all comes to a head in a rather downbeat way, the films finale was so seemingly unimportant feeling that I was surprised when the end credits popped up, I felt like I had missed something pretty major.
Choke was shot well, and had some nice looking slow motion sequences, and the montages were edited together well. I also thought the make-up on characters looked great, something I don't usually notice. This fell down for me with the story itself, I never felt it ever really gripped me too tightly (around the throat), something that not even the well chosen lead actors could help with. Choke is now available on Amazon Prime and Vimeo on Demand. In June an uncensored Blu-Ray cut was released thanks to Cinema Epoch.