The digital world has opened up a whole app store of new fears and threats for makers of ‘pretty teens in peril’ movies to exploit (there’s a joke about Pandora/Pandora’s box in there somewhere). Cyber stalking, sexting, e-mail bullying, dropping your Iphone in the toilet—these are all common currency in the undercurrent of jangling nerves that seems to inform so much of contemporary teenage life on screen, even in comedies.
In the new Blu-ray release “Crush,” this collection of collective dreads is the driving force behind a thriller about the fine, fine line between following your unrequited love around, and crippling that unrequited love and tying it up in your basement. Lucas Till stars as Scott, a high school soccer star who is the object of desire for Bess, a lonely outcast played by Crystal Reed. In her quest to connect with Scott, events take a dark and eventually fatal turn, involving Scott’s maybe/maybe-not girlfriend Jules (Sarah Bolger), Bess’ fellow music store employee Andie (Catriona Balfe) and Bess’ own secret admirer, another quiet misfit named Jeffrey (Reid Ewing).
Director Malik Bader starts off strong, with a ruthless prelude set on a suburban rooftop. Had the script by Sonny Mallhi followed up on that level of grim determination, “Crush” may have found more interesting notes to play. But the film rather quickly retreats into predictable developments, and a lurching narrative that never really works as more than set piece after set piece.
Give them credit for attempting a more subdued, less exploitive mood than normal, and for allowing the character of Bess to breath a little, particularly in a quiet scene in front of a mirror, where Bess tries out different lines to use on Scott, and another dreamy sequence where they meet at a movie and bond over a showing of “His Girl Friday.” Bess reading John Fowles’ novel “The Collector” is a nice touch, though I’d bet a paycheck that no one this film is aimed at will understand the reference.
(And I have to admit I wondered about the use of that particular Cary Grant classic—never a wise idea to get viewers thinking about other movies that are so, so much better. Was this some kind of obscure meta-comment, or was the choice more about public domain and cost of licensing?)
“Crush” never gets more than a rudimentary grasp on the thriller aspect, and the rising sense of tension that should fuel our anxiety for Scott’s well-being fizzles out too early, when the villain of the piece is revealed in a sudden and clumsy set of flashbacks. The filmmakers cheat on the third act with a tediously protracted sequence in that basement I mentioned earlier, covering up the sketchy motivation of the villain. Even sketchier are some of the supporting characters, such as the gorgeous over-heated school teacher who gives Scott her number and gets her morally-required just desserts in a form of a coma-inducing how-do-you-do.
(Again I was yanked out of the film by the thought “where were all these flirty, low-cut-blouse-wearing, erection-inducing English teachers when I was in high school? There is no justice”)
Lurking around in the shadows of all this tepid suspense is another, quieter movie about isolation and loneliness. Reed’s performance as Bess is filled with subtle physical cues to her awkward pain, and a sure sense of the genuine self-loathing inside her halting attempts at reaching out. Contrasted with Reid Ewing’s slack-jawed, annoying performance as the similarly lonely Jeffrey, it’s even more clearly a performance that deserves a different, better movie. Bess’ moments of moody silent contemplation are far more revealing and interesting than the routine thriller mechanics.
SPOILER ALERT: In the course of the movie, an Iphone does get dropped in the water—you’ve been warned.
This Blu-ray disc of “Crush” is presented in widescreen 16 x 9 format, in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The darks are truly dark, and the sequences at the pool look especially good. There are Spanish and English SDH subtitles.
The audio track is 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, and is well-balanced between dialogue and the skittery music by Julian Boyd. There is an option for Stereo 2.0 in the set-up menu.
A slightly better-than-average promotional making-of video. The young cast comes across as likable in their interview segments, and the tone is appropriately low-key.
More a laundry list of contemporary teen dreads than a compelling thriller, “Crush” handcuffs a sympathetic performance by Crystal Reed with a sputtering narrative and wafer-thin supporting characters.