“When I get a crush, it’s really bad.”
Everyone has experienced it before: you meet that special someone, and a crush sidelines you. They fill your head when you’re not with them. When they’re near, you act like an idiot. The downside comes when your crush is not reciprocated; or worse, they don’t even know you exist. Most people can move past the disappointment and heartbreak to get over a crush. But for an unlucky few, their crush can turn into a dangerous obsession.
Crush explores the dark side of infatuation. The target of the titular crush is Scott Norris (Lucas Till, Battle: Los Angeles, X-Men: First Class), a rising high school soccer star until a knee injury sidelines him for the rest of the season. Over the summer, he focuses solely on getting his leg back in shape, much to the frustration of Jules (Sarah Bolger, TV’s The Tudors, Once Upon a Time), his best friend. She’s tired of being in the “friend zone”. Unbeknownst to Scott, he’s also attracted the attention of Bess (Crystal Reed, Skyline, Crazy, Stupid Love), a shy Goth girl who’s desperate for him to notice her. Soon, Scott starts receiving anonymous love letters, and Jules gets a threatening note written on her bedroom window. As things get more intense and people start getting hurt, Scott tries to figure out who is behind it all. Is it Jules trying to get Scott to be more than friends? Is it Bess attempting to eliminate Jules as competition? Or is it someone else, with an even darker agenda?
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from this film. At first glance, this looked like a typical obsessive stalker tale — just set in high school — and, for the most part, it is. It follows a predictable formula: we meet the subject of the obsession, the suspects are introduced, events start out slow and increase in severity until the big reveal, the stalker is defeated, and the target goes on with their life. However, I have to say the reveal was actually a surprise to me. The twist was reminiscent of my favorite mystery writer, Jeffrey Deaver, author of the Lincoln Rhyme novels that began with The Bone Collector. There’s nothing I love more than being surprised by a plot twist, and the one in this film is pretty good.
The young cast turns in decent performances. Till plays Scott well, especially in the scenes where he’s trying to hide his academic and artistic talent. In a way, he’s a double victim, both of the stalker and his own lack of self-confidence. The ladies of this film perform just as well. Sarah Bolger’s take on the role of the long-suffering best friend (a role typically played by a guy) is incredibly likeable, making you really root for her and Scott to get together. Caitriona Balfe is great as the mysterious Andie, Bess’ co-worker and crush mentor. Every bit of advice Andie gives seems to both encourage and discourage Bess in pursuing her crush. Bess is probably my favorite character in the film. Crystal Reed gives a layered portrayal of Bess. While outwardly a bit creepy, Reed displays flashes of vulnerability and sweetness, ultimately making Bess kind of adorable. By far, Reed gives the best performance in this film.
The movie’s main drawback is its pacing. The first hour or so is almost unbearably slow, while the last half hour is crazy fast. The slow beginning is surprising, since the movie has a pretty shocking opening scene. I get that the director was trying to set up tension and build up suspects, but there were about 20 minutes of nothing going on that could have been trimmed from that first hour. When the action does start, it takes off at a breakneck pace. As soon as the stalker has done one thing to Scott, we see them trying something else. While this keeps the tension high, it doesn’t allow for a chance to set in or make an impact on the viewer. This film needed a more even-handed approach. If the first and second acts had some more relevance — and the third act slowed down so we could react to the stalker’s actions — this film would have been much better.
Crush has an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is achieved with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average of 22 mbps. While the daytime scenes looked just fine with good details, any shots at night or in the dark were pretty bad. The black levels are awful. Specifically, the separation left a lot to be desired. There’s a scene where the stalker is trying to smother someone with a pillow in a dark room. I thought the victim was having a seizure until the door opened and lit up the room because I couldn’t see the pillow or the stalker’s arms. Luckily, the dark scenes are fairly short, but they occur often enough to cause confusion as to what’s happening.
This film features a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track. Unfortunately, it fails on the ladies’ dialogue, especially Bess. I get that they talk softer than guys, but there should be no reason that Scott is perfectly clear and Jules and Bess sound like they’re a mile away in the same scene. The subtitles aren’t much help, as they appear in different parts of the screen. The good news is the score sounds great. The scene where the music from Bess and Scott’s iPods mix together is quite cool. I wouldn’t think the two songs would fit together, but they do.
The Making of Crush (21:10): This is a typical behind-the-scenes look at how the movie came together, with a cool section talking about the kind of mental illness that leads to dangerous obsessions. Presented in HD.
A decent script and acting can’t make up for bad directing and editing. If you rent this film, feel free to fast-forward through the boring part. Trust me, you won’t miss much.