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Review: Gregory Hatanaka’s “CHOKE”

I love good ol’ fashion serial killer movies, which the new entry in the Amateur Porn Star Killer universe certainly is. It’s been eleven years since the original four movies hit independent cinema, and series creator Shane Ryan has officially handed over the reigns to Gregory Hatanaka. With his unique take on the murderer, Brandon, Hatanaka has perhaps created one of the most bizarre and grotesque love stories of all time. It’s with this old school vibe that’s reminiscent of The Prowler and real-life killers from the 1970’s that Choke really hits its stride with an uncomfortable narrative about two clashing forces both falling for a mysterious young girl. Produced by Hatanaka and Chris Spinelli with executive producers Ryan, Nicole D’Angelo and Kelley Daniel, Choke is now available on Amazon Prime and Vimeo with a Blu-ray release date pending for this June.

Shot for Cinema Epoch and CineRidge Entertainment, Choke is my first time witnessing the Brandon character created and portrayed by Shane Ryan. With that said, it’s easy to get the gist of what his previous sprees were about given the titles Amateur Porn Star Killer. A spin-off of sorts, Choke is a wild and hyper-sexualized romp in the salt fields that’s completely cinema ready. It’s a shame that this movie is being self-released because it looks and sounds capable of commanding an audience in a much bigger venue. For an independent production, no expense was spared in telling this story and director/cinematographer Greg Hatanaka and editor Michael Tang, as well as all the other behind-the-scenes crew, deserve a ton of credit. Plus, the poster guy. Whoever made it made me want to see this movie despite several outlets banning the imagine due to violent content.

Perhaps viewers are in fight mode in regards to this movie due to the fact that the lead female character is only 17-years-old and carries on two relationships with much older men. I know where I stand on this issue, so that’s not up to debate, but films aren’t always meant to be simple and soothing to you. Especially in the realm of horror and dark dramas, the envelope is often pushed to draw an emotion and negative reaction from the audience – on purpose! And in this case, the young woman is far from innocent herself. The cast is comprised of Shane Ryan, Scott Butler, Sarah Brine, Lisa London, Sal Landi, Chris Spinelli, Barry Sattels and Brynda Mattox. I can’t think of one weak performance in the bunch, as certain characters are more psychologically and emotionally damaged than others; thus requiring a different take than audiences are used to. Horror, drama, romance and thrills collide in Choke and it was all woven together beautifully by the principal players.

With a truck load of conflicting and suffocating montages and a stand-out performance by Shane Ryan, Choke was a different beast than I was expecting. It’s story driven, unsuspecting and shockingly cute. I wouldn’t even say it was a horror film it wasn’t for all the murders! You’ll find yourself oddly invested in the three leads even though they’re all completely bizarre and traumatized. I’d even go as far as to say that Choke is a sophisticated horror flick that begs you to lower your guard. Hell, it was pretty good! Final Score: 8 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)