Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factory - THE CRUSH on Blu-ray ""

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Scream Factory - THE CRUSH on Blu-ray

THE CRUSH (1993; Alan Shapiro)
Over the past few years, I've started revisiting a lot of films from the 1990s with a nostalgic eye and it's been oddly comforting. Not only am I far enough removed from that decade now for it to be its own distinct thing (like the 80s), but I've actually come to miss a lot of the actors that were popular during that time. I'm ever fascinated (and saddened) by the way that Hollywood and the public at large cycles through actors and how their popularity wanes often for no reason at all. Just the mere idea that people and the media can be totally obsessed with a person in a really intense way for a decent amount of time and then completely forget about them has always been disheartening.
The 1990s were a particularly potent time for me because I was working in video stores for the major part of that decade. This meant that all of the stars of that period were even more amplified for me because I was at least aware of pretty much every movie that they did. Alicia Silverstone was one of those "It Girl" actors of the time that I ended up getting a little sick of. It might have had something to do with the kinds of characters she played and her go-to smirky look that was a staple of her acting arsenal. There just seemed to be an arrogance of "yeah I'm the hottest gal around" that came through that kind of turned me off. This was of course amplified by my having to see her face on the many different movies she made during the 90s via all the VHS tapes that I often had to put back on the shelves at the video store. So needless to say, I grew tired of her and never really gave her a fair shake as an actor. I wasn't even a fan of CLUELESS back then, which is a little silly as it's a pretty enjoyable 90s curio. But twenty years or so is a long time and the lens of retrospect can really make a difference in one's viewpoint. As I mentioned, the 90s are now a time I recall with a lot more fondness regardless of the actual quality of a lot of the movies that came out back then. The 90s has it tougher than the 80s though in that the 80s has a much more distinct flavor of music fashion and other general aesthetics that create a deeper cache of entertainment value, even in the bad movies. The 90s has it's own tunes and styles of course, but they are a bit more bland in my mind so what's left to stand out is the actors.
Another thing that was quite popular in the 1990s was the thriller genre. This probably stemmed from the success of movies like BASIC INSTINCT in the early part of the decade and perhaps even FATAL ATTRACTION in the late 80s. Again, my awareness of 90s thrillers was most certainly magnified by the video store environment I was working in, because it certainly felt like we were getting new thrillers in constantly. I remember the movie FEAR (with Mark Wahlberg and Reese Witherspoon) was a really big renter for us for some reason. Another big thing that spawned off of that was the rise in popularity of "erotic thrillers". Shannon Tweed made many of these and I recall they were also quite popular renters at my video store. So THE CRUSH almost falls into that category really. It's taboo nature and approach to the idea of pedophilia would make it trickier to make these days. The whole idea of the movie is that a young journalist/writer, Nick (Cary Elwes), rents a guest house to get some peace and quiet for his work and ends up running afoul of the 14-year old daughter of the folks he's renting from. Basically the girl - Adrian (Silverstone) - becomes obsessed with the man and when he refuses her advances, she proceeds to throw his life into chaos. Adrian's fixation on Nick starts innocently enough but gets creepy pretty quickly. One thing I had forgotten is how Nick ends up doing some kind of stuff that casts him in an less-than-perfect light too - so it makes Adrian's actions feel a little more justified in a certain way. All that makes the thriller aspect of the movie that much more intense.

This movie was Alicia Silverstone's breakout role (she had done an Aerosmith video prior to this) and she was actually only fifteen years old at the time that she made it. In the production notes released for the film, director Shapiro described the Silverstone role as "A 90s teenager with the dramatic force of Gloria Swanson in SUNSET BOULEVARD, the innocence and sensuality of Sue Lyon in LOLITA and the intensity of Glenn Close in FATAL ATTRACTION". Alicia certainly does bring a lot of these qualities in varying degrees to her performance in THE CRUSH. It's easy to see that she had that certain something that movie stars have that makes them stand out. In this role in particular, she shows how she can be both affectionate, cute and endearing as well as eerily frightening when she doesn't get what she wants. The film certainly does draw some inspiration from Kubrick's LOLITA in both the look of the theatrical poster and some specific shots in the movie itself.
Interestingly, this film is inspired slightly by an actual incident wherein director Shapiro was actually stalked by a young girl while he was living in a guest house like Elwes does in the movie. The real girl's name was Darian and that was the name given to Alicia Silverstone's character upon the movie's initial release. There was later a lawsuit by the girl and her family which led to the character's name having to be changed. As a result, each time her name is mentioned in the movie now, the audio has been re-looped to change her name to "Adrian". I hadn't noticed this at the time the film came out on VHS, but it's quite noticeable now (as her name is said A LOT throughout the course of the movie).
The film also stars Kurtwood Smith (THAT 70s SHOW, ROBOCOP), Jennifer Rubin (BAD DREAMS, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3), Amber Benson (of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV Show). Kurtwood Smith is really great as Adrian's dad and he and Elwes have some excellent scenes together. Smith has always played this kind of ambiguously threatening paternal character just perfectly and he nails it here. 

Special Features:
-A new Audio commentary with writer/director Alan Shapiro. This is solid track wherein Shapiro talks about how he made and cast the film, and briefly - how the story was based on what happened to him years prior. I also particularly enjoyed Shapiro's recollections of working with Ken Russell on ALTERED STATES.
-New interviews with both Kurtwood Smith and Jennifer Rubin.

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