By Clark Collis
August 01, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT

In writer-director Ben Cresciman’s new horror-thriller Sun Choke, Barbara Crampton plays Irma, the caretaker of a mentally troubled young woman named Janie (played by Sarah Hagan). But is the strict regime the former enforces on the latter a form of treatment? Or a kind of torture?

“That’s a good question,” Crampton, whose credits include 1985’s Re-Animator and 2013’s You’re Next, tells EW. “When I first read the material, I wasn’t sure myself if I was treating her or torturing her. [Laughs] I said to the director, ‘Am I a good character or a bad character?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know, let’s figure that out together.’ I thought to myself, ‘Well, I’m really in for it if I take this part.'”

In the course of the film, Hagan’s character becomes increasingly obsessed with a stranger named Savannah, played by Sara Malakul Lane, who is the only other significant performer in the film. “That was quite nice, actually,” Crampton says of the project’s female-skewing cast. “I spent quite a bit of time with both girls and I have to say my hats off to Ben Cresciman for coming up with three very strong dynamic roles within one movie. I’m forever indebted to him.”

Crampton admits the Los Angeles shoot was an intense experience, one made more so by the fact that the film’s main location doubled as the actress’ lodging. “It was an independent low-budget movie, so I stayed in the house we were filming in, because I live in San Francisco,” Crampton says. “It was quite a beautiful house, actually. But it was spooky and sterile living there at night. I do try to put myself into a character as much as possible and live in that character while I’m playing the role. So it was not one of the easiest roles I’ve ever done. And to do some of the things I did to Sarah wasn’t pleasant. She and I got along great, and we worked very well together, we liked one another as people. But it was a dark place to be in for about a month. I always tell people it’s like, if Lars von Trier were more depressed than he actually is, then that would be this movie.”

Sun Choke debuts on VOD and iTunes Aug. 2 and arrives in theaters, Aug. 5. See the film’s trailer below.