Sometimes movies that have a controversial concept can play out in a totally commercial manner. An interesting example of this is The Crush: it is essentially a Lolita-twisted version of Fatal Attraction… and as potentially tacky as that might sound, the results play like a teen-friendly thriller.
The hapless protagonist of The Crush is Nick (Cary Elwes), a nice guy journalist who has moved to the big city to get his career going. He lucks into renting a nice little guest house tucked away behind a mini-mansion. Unfortunately, the family in the main house includes Adrian (Alicia Silverstone), an underage but precocious teen who is smart and more than a little unbalanced. She fixates on Nick and when he fails to return her puppy love, she sets her sights on ruining his career and love life. If other people get caught in the crossfire, she’s got no problem with that.
The concept of The Crush is a minefield littered with unsavory subjects that could turn an audience off: underage sexuality, false rape accusations, pedophilia, etc. Thus, it’s a surprise that the film nimbly manages to sidestep all of them. Writer/director Alan Shapiro offers up a “lite” take on his subject, showing a greater interest in thrills rather than shocks and liberally lacing the proceedings with an undertone of self-satirical humor. He’s also surprisingly subtle in the content department, hinting at nudity and blood rather than showing it (it probably earned its R-rating over the potential queasiness of the subject matter).
Thankfully, Shapiro’s approach works because all his collaborators contribute to the film in the same spirit of popcorn movie fun. Elwes has fun playing against type as a dorky naïf who has to wise up in a hurry and first timer Silverstone brings a disarming playfulness to her teen psycho role that gives the simple archetype a little extra dimension. There’s also a strong backing cast that includes Jennifer Rubin as Nick’s Annie Hall-ish (and endangered) love interest and Kurtwood Smith as Adrian’s unsuspecting and protective dad. A pre-Buffy The Vampire Slayer Amber Benson also does nice work as Adrian’s put-upon misfit pal.
That said, Shapiro’s most important collaborator on this film after Silverstone has to be veteran cinematographer Bruce Surtees. He hits the right blend of pop imagery and traditionally shadowy thriller tableaus to match the film’s blend of fun and thrills. His work really gives the film in a lift in the finale, which takes an unusual setting for a showdown and gives it a surreal stylishness.
In short, The Crush manages to turn creepy, potentially offensive themes into a fizzy little popcorn muncher. It’s an interesting little bit of narrative sleight-of-hand and those who can appreciate the lighter side of thrillers will have some campy fun with it.
Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory picked this title up for blu-ray reissue and has put together a nice little edition with a few extras. The transfer does well by Surtees’ slick cinematography, bringing out the colors while also handling the darker, more shadowy moments with nice definition. As for the audio, lossless 5.1 and 2.0 stereo options are included. A pre-film warning indicates that all available audio materials had a phasing issue that couldn’t be avoided: how much you hear this issue will depend on your home theater setup but there isn’t a huge difference between the two mixes so using the 2.0 track will help downplay this issue.
A few bonus features are included. A commentary track includes Shapiro with moderator Nathaniel Thompson of Mondo Digital. Thompson has done his homework and keeps the director engaged with interesting questions, leading to some good anecdotes about the real life inspiration for the tale, some studio exec shenanigans that impacted the film’s content and a narrowly dodged lawsuit regarding the film.
There are also a couple of interviews. A chat with Kurtwood Smith (9:59) offers fond reflections on the filming, which allowed him enough downtime to learn hockey, and some amusing commentary on a bit of last-minute dubbing on the film. A sitdown with Jennifer Rubin (13:19) covers similiar territory, with some interesting bits about Shapiro would tweak his script during shooting and how the big “bee scene” was filmed. A theatrical trailer and a t.v. spot complete the extras package.