Sun Choke is the new film starring Barbara Crampton and Sarah Hagen. The story centers around a young woman who suffers from severe mental illness and the caregiver who controls her life. Sun Choke is a difficult and cerebral experience that leaves the viewer questioning the reality of the events in the film. It’s an unnerving film that deals with very heavy subject matter and is worthy of multiple viewings and critical analysis. Barbara Crampton spoke with us about her role and what she went through to prepare for this intense psychological movie.
Fandom: How would you summarize Sun Choke?
Barbara Crampton: It’s a look into mental illness as told through the eyes of three different dynamic women. One has the mental illness; one is caring for the mentally ill and one is the victim of this woman who is mentally ill. It’s a story that’s told through the lens of those three women.
There’s all this talk about roles for women and, “Where are all the women?” and more strong roles for women. Here we have it in this movie. Sarah Hagan, myself, and Sara Malakul Lane are given three amazing characters to play, and I was fortunate enough to work with them and see the depth and beauty of their work. I was just blown away by both of them.
I would say this is a movie that is very dark and takes a very bleak look into mental illness, but it’s told in a way that is kind of beautiful and poetic. At the end, I think you’re left with something very satisfying for a horror fan.
Fandom: How did you get involved in the film?
Barbara Crampton: Initially my manager saw a casting notice about it and inquired to the producer to see if they would be interested in looking at me for the role. They said yes, and then they wanted me to come down to L.A. and audition. My agent said, “She’s in San Francisco and if you’d like to have her in the movie, you probably just have to make her an offer.” So, I think they thought about it for a couple of weeks, and they offered me the role.
I read the script, and I was pretty fascinated by it. It was definitely a different kind of role than I’ve ever done before. It’s a much darker character than I’ve ever played, so it was intriguing to me. It was also a little bit daunting. I was nervous about it, but when they did offer me the role I talked to the director Ben Cresciman about what he was looking for and the story he wanted to tell. I became more and more intrigued about playing the prospect of this character, and that’s kind of how it happened.
Fandom: How did you approach your character?
Barbara Crampton: You know there are so many layers and so many ways of looking at it, and with the ending, there are so many ways of understanding it and justifying what’s happening. I think that the viewer is going to look at this through their own eyes and have different feelings on what the movie’s about or what they’re supposed to take away from it and who’s good and who’s bad.
Sarah Hagan’s character is mentally ill, and I’m caring for her. Have I added to her mental illness, or have I helped her? Would she be worse without me, or did I make her worse? Or was I made worse as a person by caring for a mentally ill person to the expense of my own life? I think those are the kind of questions that I’d ask myself when I was doing research and trying to come up with a personality profile for her to play this woman.
Trying to understand and justify why she did the things that she did; no one thinks they’re a bad person, and everybody can pretty much justify their actions and why they do what they do. Am I a bad character? I don’t know. I asked Ben when I agreed to do the role, “Am I a bad character or a good character?” and he said, “I don’t know. Let’s find out together.”
I think in moments you will have some sympathy for my character and other moments you won’t. I tried to play both sides of that the best I could so that you would understand the sadness and the depth that my character had with giving up her own life and taking care of someone who is mentally ill. That’s it; that’s her whole life and what would that do to a person. I watched a lot of movies that had caretakers or doctors involved with extreme power.
I did a lot of mental research on mental illnesses that she could potentially have. Her mental illness was never named in the movie, but I have some idea of what I think that she had. I did some research on that, and I did a lot of research on techniques and holistic practices that Ben wrote about in the script.
I go to a holistic doctor in real life. I go to an alternative medicine guy and practice things in my own life that maybe others think are questionable. Are they working for me? I don’t know. Maybe sometimes, maybe not, and it’s the same in this movie. Some of the things that I do are working, and they’re probably potentially harmful.
Fandom: Who should go see Sun Choke?
Barbara Crampton: I would probably recommend this to somebody who feels like they don’t have all the answers and somebody that wants to ask more questions. I think this is a movie that leaves you kind of wondering and thinking the story of these three dynamic women and their plights quite heavily. Thinking about who they are and why they did what they did, but maybe not having all the answers.
It’s a real psychological thriller, and it’s a real thinking movie. It’s a movie where it’s going to challenge you to think and to come up with your own feeling about it. There’s not a lot of humor in this movie, and it’s a deep thinking movie. It’s kind of surreal and really deep. It’s very cerebral and a thinking person’s movie.
Fandom: What are you a fan of right now?
Barbara Crampton: I like a lot of things. I like thrillers, I like comedies, I like horror movies. I just finished watching Stranger Things on Netflix. It’s a throwback sort of ’80s show. I think they did eight episodes, and they’re coming back for more. I kind of like that series, so I’ll leave you with that.
Sun Choke is currently available on VOD, Digital HD and in select theaters.