Crush (2013)

US / 95 minutes / color / Intrepid Pictures, FilmNation Dir: Malik Bader Pr: Trevor Macy, Marc D. Evans Scr: Sonny Mallhi Cine: Scott Kevan Cast: Lucas Till, Crystal Reed, Sarah Bolger, Caitriona Balfe, Reid Ewing, Holt McCallany, DJ Kemp, Camille Guaty, Michael Landes, Isaiah Mustafa, Leigh Whannell, Ashleigh Craig, Cody Hamilton, Dan Metcalfe, Preston Davis, Mariah Buzolin, Melissa Young, Nikki SooHoo, Meredith Salenger.

A surprisingly neat little movie that hovers somewhere between dark comedy and twisty psychological thriller, with a bit of coming-of-age drama thrown in. The performances are uniformly very good to excellent; almost all of them manage to be convincing while at the same time retaining something of the tongue-in-cheek. I was expecting a ripoff of—sorry, homage to—The FAN (the 1996 piece, not the 1981 one), but what I saw was a far more original and certainly far more entertaining movie than that.

By way of prologue, we see a little girl (Craig) and a little boy (Hamilton) sitting on a high roof. When the little boy admits with a chuckle that “I kissed Emily,” his companion hisses, “You kissed the wrong girl” . . . and shoves him off the roof to his death. And she does this so sweetly you just know no one will ever believe it was anything other than a tragic accident.

Ashleigh Craig as the junior psycho.

Cut forward a decade or more, and highschool hero soccer player Scott Norris (Till) is adored by all the girls. Unlike most males that age, he rebuffs their advances, no matter how outrageously hot the girls are. We, of course, having just watched the prologue and having seen movies of this kind before, are well aware that one of these young women has to be the psycho—the grown-up version of the cute but lethal little pud who wasn’t Emily and who’ll now become obsessed about Scott.

Lucas Till as Scott.

But who? The possible candidates are all brunettes, so hair-color isn’t going to help us. Could it be

  • Bess (Reed)? She’s the new girl in town, and everyone thinks she’s creepy because she’s very Goth. Asked why she always wears black, she answers, “It’s too difficult to think about all the other colors.” Bess very obviously has a crush on Scott, and does lots of crushy things around him. While she’s stalking Scott she’s beingstalked by Jeffrey (Ewing).

Crystal Reed as Bess.

  • Jules Lindstrom (Bolger)? She’s the nearest that abstinent soccer-jock Scott has to a steady girlfriend. Trouble is, while she wants to be more than the best friend he thinks she is, and would maybe even settle for friend-with-benefits status, he has the possibility of a future soccer scholarship to think about. I myself don’t remember being so creditably earnest about my future—pathetically desperate was more like it—but there ya go.

Sarah Bolger as Jules and Lucas Till as Scott.

  • Karen (Buzolin)? She appears only very briefly. However, Jules tells Scott that Karen really has a pash for him, so the fact that Karen then drops out of sight altogether makes us naturally suspect that toward the end she’ll suddenly turn up swishing a machete to lethal effect.
  • Andie (Balfe)? She’s Bess’s senior colleague at the record shop they both work in. On the other hand, she’s making a play for (or perhaps hoping for a pickup by) their boss David (Whannell). Certainly there’s a bit of needle in their relationship. Still, perhaps the plot could turn the tables on us . . .

Caitriona Balfe as Andie.

  • Nancy Brown (Guaty)? To be sure, as Scott’s one-time English teacher, Nancy has an appeal that’s more, well, mature, but she’s keen enough to meet Scott on his exercise runs and make sure he has her phone number.

They’re all incandescently hot, they’re all (as noted) brunette, and they’re all being held at arms’ length or outright rejected by Scott.

So who could the psycho be?

Let me rephrase that:

So WHO COULD THE PSYCHO BE????!!!???

The movie wants to make us assume it’s Bess, so obviously she’s in the clear (unless there’s going to be an amazing double bluff and it’ll turn out to be Bess after all!!!!). And Bess seems on the one hand to be luminously bright—she’s reading John Fowles’s The Collector (1963)—but also maybe not so bright after all: it takes her days to get through what’s actually rather a short novel.

Reid Ewing as Jeffrey, Bess’s stalker.

The soundtrack’s full of splendid songs. You can find a compilation of them on YouTube here.

Bess is far and away the most interesting character in the movie, although Lucas Till does a truly exceptional job in giving Scott, the soccer jock, a good deal of interest and depth; without that effort on Till’s part, we’d be at a loss to explain why such a range of intelligent women would be interested in him.

There are lots of little twists and turns in this movie that made me grin. One sequence I particularly relished occurs maybe halfway through, where Bess and Jeffrey are seated on a high wall. It’s a conscious echo of the opening sequence, and we brace ourselves for Bess to shove Jeffrey from his perch . . .

And you’ll have to watch the movie to find out whether or not she does, won’t you?

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