WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS!
Greetings Vault Dwellers! Before I begin this review, I want to say that I am not a big fan of the films showcased on Lifetime Movie Network. To me, it’s just an endless parade of movies featuring battered wives, psychotic boyfriends, and jaded lovers gone bad.
The Vault Mistress absolutely loves watching this modern schlock, and (somewhat surprisingly) my parents do as well. So you can imagine how much I grumbled when I learned that Scream Factory added THE CRUSH to their ever-expanding catalog. Even more so when a review copy arrived on my doorstep.
Admittedly, up until now I had never seen this film, and had written off as something I would absolutely hate. (It didn’t help that the Vault Mistress’ explanation of the film included the phrase, “it’s a lot like those Lifetime Movies I watch.”) So it was with much trepidation that I finally popped THE CRUSH into my Blu-ray player, and as the film unfolded I was shocked: It was actually a very well-crafted thriller!
THE CRUSH features Cary Elwes as Nick Eliot, a writer and researcher who takes up a new job at Pique magazine in Seattle, Washington. While searching for a place to live, fate intervenes and Nick ends up renting a guest house that belongs to a wealthy couple named Cliff and Liv Forrester (Kurtwood Smith and Gwynyth Walsh). The price is right, the landlords seem nice, and it is homey, quiet, and inviting. But naturally there’s a catch, and that would be Cliff and Liv’s daughter Adrian Forrester. (Alicia Silverstone in her feature film debut!)
Smitten with Nick, Adrian makes seemingly harmless advances upon the writer, proving to be at first mildly annoying, and even a little helpful. Nick is impressed with her intelligence, but soon finds himself backsliding into a compromising position. With his career moving forward, and a romance brewing with his co-worker Amy Maddik, (Jennifer Rubin), Nick doesn’t have time for the Lolita next door.
However, he fails to realize is that Adrian is a bit of a psychopath, and soon she is doing everything in her power to derail Nick’s life: She scratches up his newly restored car, attempts to kill his girlfriend, gets him fired, and accuses him of rape. With his life and career crumbling around him, Nick throws in the towel until Adrian’s friend Cheyenne (Amber Benson) comes forward with information. But Adrian won’t be beaten so easily, and soon Nick is in a race against time to rescue Cheyenne, and clear his name.
THE CRUSH proved to be a surprisingly good film that kept me glued to the TV from start to finish. It boasts an interesting soundtrack by composer Graeme Revell, that sounds like it’d be right at home in a softcore porno. (Sample it here.) Despite that, the music actually works and lends itself well to the proceedings. Along with solid direction from Alan Shapiro, and fantastic cinematography by Bruce Surtees, the film benefits greatly from its stellar cast. Everyone turns in good performances, but the movie’s success rests entirely on the shoulders of its two leads.
Cary Elwes is great as the soft-spoken, and sometimes meek Nick Eliot. He’s just a guy trying to make a living, and wants privacy so he can focus on his work. He’s a decent person who is under constant attack by an oversexed preteen girl, and you begin to feel just as helpless and frustrated (in every sense of the word) as Nick does, when she retaliates against him for spurning her. This eventually leads to the gratifying moment where Nick delivers a mega knockout punch when Adrian charges at him during their climactic struggle.
And speaking of Adrian (aka Darian), Alicia Silverstone is superb as the film’s antagonist. So much so, that it’s almost hard to believe that this was her first major role in a motion picture. (Prior to this, her claim to fame was starring in Aerosmith’s “Crying” music video.) She effortlessly makes the transition from a sweet, innocent girl, to a cold, calculated seductress, to a raging lunatic, and it’s impressive to say the least. Alicia Silverstone shines as Adrian, and proved early on that she was a talented actress and not just another pretty face.
Honestly, I don’t have much more to say about THE CRUSH: It is a surprisingly good little thriller that turned me into a fan after a single viewing. It’s well-paced, the leads deliver great performances, and the film builds to a very satisfying conclusion. I definitely give this title my recommendation, and I believe it is more than worthy of:
Packaging: The disc comes in a standard Blu-ray case featuring the film’s original poster art.
Audio & Video: THE CRUSH is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and looks quite good. Though there are moments where the film appears a little soft or grainy, overall the picture quality is great. In regards to the audio, the disc gives you two options: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0.
Here’s where Scream Factory’s disc becomes a little problematic. There are phasing issues with the audio (as forewarned in a message that pops up before the movie begins), which was distracting to some reviewers, but didn’t honestly it didn’t bother me too much. It’s definitely noticeable, but didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the movie at all.
The audio issues are due to Scream Factory not being able to track down a better audio source, which may be a result of the legally forced redubbing of Darian’s name to “Adrian.” (Which I’ll touch upon in just a moment.)
Extras: Along with a trailer and TV spot this disc offers up two interviews with cast members Kurtwood Smith and Jennifer Rubin, and a new audio commentary with Director Alan Shapiro. The interviews are both very brief (about fourteen minutes each) and sadly Kurtwood Smith’s proves to be the less interesting of the two. The only thing that caught my attention was that he was completely unaware of the forced legal changes made to the film.
Jennifer Rubin’s interview is a bit meatier, and she gives some neat insights to the scene in the film where she’s nearly killed by a swarm of “wasps.” The bees used for this sequence were flown in from South Africa and, I’m assuming, had their stingers removed. For the shot where they blast out of an air vent and into Jennifer’s face, puffed rice was used, and apparently the crew glued dead bees to her hands for closeups. Rubin (who is still looking pretty good these days) also has high praise for cinematographer Bruce Surtees, and mentions how he was integral in making the film look as good as it does.
Finally there’s the audio commentary, which is a mixed bag. Nathaniel Thompson (from Mondo Digital) moderates writer/director Alan Shapiro, and for the most part it is interesting. However they run out of steam about a third into the movie, and by the time you get to the final act, they both spend more time watching the film, than discussing it.
Still there is some great background information about this production contained on the commentary track, particularly the legal circumstances surrounding the film. According to Shapiro, at one point in his life, he rented a guest house from a family in Los Angeles, and his landlords’ daughter, Darian Forrester, had a crush on him. When he didn’t reciprocate Darian’s affection, she carved “Alan is a c*cksucker” into the hood of his new car, then denied responsibility. The girl’s parents refused to believe Shapiro, even when one of Darian’s friends backed him up.
Having further researched this online, it would seem that the girl’s parents sued Morgan Creek and Warner Bros. for libel, and eventually a settlement was reached out of court. Because of this, subsequent VHS and DVD releases (and Scream Factory’s Blu-ray) of THE CRUSH contain altered audio and credits so that Darian’s name was changed to Adrian.
Shapiro also mentions suffering a bit of studio interference, particularly in regards to the tone of the movie. They wanted it to be a much more serious thriller, while he was trying to make it a bit campier and over the top. He also briefly discusses directing the short-lived The Outsiders TV series. Since the show was popular, and aired on FOX, it was doomed to be canceled after one season. (Continuing FOX’s long history of canceling good shows way too soon. See also WEREWOLF, FIREFLY, THE TICK, and numerous others.)
Final Verdict: I’m kind of giving Scream Factory a pass for the audio issues on this disc, so based on its other merits, this is a decent Blu-ray release. At the very least, THE CRUSH looks good, and has enough extras to warrant a purchase. While I would have liked interviews with Cary Elwes and Alicia Silverstone, or in lieu of that, the alternate scenes shot for the TV version, I’m happy enough with what’s been supplied. It’s not Scream Factory’s best work, but it surely isn’t their worst, and I feel justified in giving this disc: