For those “Poison Ivy” fans who haven’t quite exhausted their appetite for psychotic yet seductive teenagers, here comes “The Crush”– another by-the-numbers thriller longer on suspense than brains. Silly and predictable, the pic might squeeze out some early returns with genre fans but, lacking star power, figures to peter out pretty quickly.
Writer-director Alan Shapiro says in the production notes that the idea was inspired by an incident in his own life, where “a brilliant young woman” developed a crush on him and refused to take “no” for an answer. However, the intervening rash of “Single White Female”-type hits appears to have provided slightly greater inspiration, with a touch of “The Bad Seed” thrown in for good measure.
Cary Elwes plays a magazine writer who moves into the guest house of a wealthy couple and befriends their beautiful, precocious 14-year-old daughter Darian (Alicia Silverstone), who starts out cute and coquettish and ends up reminiscent of a similarly named youth from “The Omen.”
Nick (Elwes) gives in to a momentary indiscretion and kisses the girl, then watches her grow gradually more obsessed, until she starts venting her wrath at him, one of his co-workers (Jennifer Rubin) and a teenage friend who may know too much about Darian’s dangerous crushes.
Aside from the touchy aspects of a crazed teenager as sexual aggressor, the movie also flirts with uncomfortable territory via Nick’s obvious ambivalence about this alluring woman-child and ultimately a false rape accusation — casting Darian as a sort of Amy Fisher: The Earlier Years.
Still, Shapiro (making his feature debut after directing several movies for The Disney Channel) explicably abandons any court proceedings to allow for the usual overwrought ending; however, the age of Darian, this latest variation on the crazed fill-in-the-blank, proves somewhat limiting in terms of both the actual threat and her eventual comeuppance.
In fact, with its basic shortage of gore and only brief glimpses of nudity, it’s hard to imagine what in the film prompted an R rating, unless it stands for “ridiculous.”
The girl’s age even prevents the movie from qualifying as much of a male fantasy, unless one also daydreams about statutory rape and prison time.
Elwes has a certain boyish charm as Nick but is so relentlessly dense he doesn’t engender much sympathy. Silverstone (a movie newcomer who has guest starred on ABC’s “The Wonder Years”) brings the right mix of little-girl pouting and budding sensuality to a role that is, finally, a caricature. Other roles are equally limited.
Technical credits are generally undistinguished, though longtime Clint Eastwood cinematographer Bruce Surtees does help provide some eerie moments in lensing the girl’s shrine to the object of her infatuation, augmented by Graeme Revell’s score. Revell knows the territory, having plied his trade before on “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” and, here, on the hand that robs it.