Choke Poster

Review: CHOKE (2020)

Between directing, acting and producing, Shane Ryan (Guerrilla) has an incredible number of credits to his name. He’s probably best known for the four Amateur Porn Star Killer films he wrote, directed and starred in between 2002 and 2009. Choke finds him taking it relatively easy. This time out he’s only acting, playing the serial killer Brandon for writer/director Gregory Hatanaka (Mad Cowgirl, Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance).

Brandon (Shane Ryan), as I just mentioned, is a serial killer. As you can probably guess from the film’s title, he strangles his victims. On a train trip, he meets seventeen-year-old Jeanie, (or Peyton depending on who she’s with) played by Sarah Brine (Heartbeat). You can tell he likes her because he keeps fantasizing about strangling women while they talk.

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But this sweet and innocent-looking young lass has a few secrets of her own. She’s involved with another older man as well, Robert (Scott Butler, The Campus, Zombie Night). A cop with his own issues who we first see beating the shit out of a suspect. And then there’s this cult that gets people to choke themselves out…

Now, while this sounds like it could be a pretty brutal horror film or maybe a police thriller, it’s anything but. Choke is much more of an artsy character study of three fucked up people, much of it told in flashback. Like Robert’s flashbacks to his love/hate relationship with Stephanie (Lisa London, Xtro 3: Watch the Skies) who had a thing for choking him during sex.

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Mixed in with all the flashbacks, music video style sequences, montages and assorted random shots of LA there are details about the characters sprinkled in. Family issues, mental issues etc. If you’re looking for an arthouse drama, great. But Choke claims to be a horror film, and it doesn’t deliver at all on that level.

And that isn’t saying a horror film can’t be art or a character study. Martin and Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer are two great examples. But they made sure to deliver the horror as well. Morbid Colors, which I recently reviewed, is much more a road movie than a vampire film. But it still remembered to give horror fans their due.

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Given its polished look and well-stocked soundtrack, Choke should have been sold as a drama or maybe even a dark romance. It would have found a much more receptive and appreciative audience.

Choke is available to stream via Cinema Epoch.

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