I'm not sure which is worse: that teen thriller 'Crush (2013)' from relatively new director Malik Bader is not a remake of the 1993 adult thriller with Alicia Silverstone and Cary Elwes, or that I am on some small level disappointed by this very fact, almost as if I were hoping that it were a remake. Granted, the lack of an article before the noun should have been the dead giveaway, but given the similar subject matter within the same genre, I can't be faulted for having such an expectation in the first place. In fact, the concept of a usually passing infatuation turning dangerously obsessive is nothing new in movies and has been explored in a variety of ways. Again, can't fault me for walking into this latest regurgitation with a good deal of hesitation and skepticism.
Thankfully, Bader's low-budget thriller is actually well-made and affably entertaining, with a decently if also surprisingly satisfying conclusion. As far as direct-to-video productions go, this isn't half bad and is more suspenseful than what typically passes as bigger-budgeted PG-13 fodder these days. It has an engaging story, which keeps audiences invested to the end. In 'Crush,' the story progresses and twists into a few uncomfortable situations and confrontations. It's fairly standard stuff for the genre, except for one welcome difference. Bader calls upon the spirit of the almighty master Alfred Hitchcock (probably the best imaginable compliment I could bestow upon this movie) to effectively employ the legendary director's own signature plot element: the MacGuffin.
It's not a perfect use of the plot device, almost bordering on the level of a red herring, but it's well-played nonetheless, convincing — or better yet fooling — viewers of the direction of the story. It goes back to the fact of walking in with preconceived expectations due to other similarly-themed movies. The filmmakers cleverly use these suppositions and anticipations to their advantage as Bess's (Crystal Reed) crush on popular athlete Scott (Lucas Till) seemingly grows into an unhealthy fixation. She's preoccupied with his Facebook posts and statuses, follows him around town and to parties, and reads daily from a site called "Notes to Crushes." Concern over the soft-spoken, unusually timid girl's behavior begins when Scott's best friend Jules (Sarah Bolger) becomes the object of threats and attacks.
Working from a script by Sonny Mallhi, better known as producer for Spike Lee's upcoming remake of 'Oldboy,' Bader does an excellent job at building the tension and suspense, unfolding the narrative with patience in order to suddenly pull the rug from under us and shock with an unexpected twist. A minor romance subplot between Bess's coworkers Andie (Caitriona Balfe) and David (Leigh Whannell) serve as a good distraction from the final reveal. The storyline with Scott's father (Holt McCallany), his family situation and his future with the soccer team also serves the same intentions but tends to slow the pace down while adding nothing to the movie's overall effect. The same goes for the inappropriate conduct of the English teacher (Camille Guaty), which only exposes the ridiculousness of the plot because it implies every single woman of this fictional town only has the "hots" for pretty boy Scott.
In the end, however, 'Crush' satisfies without stomping all over our cinematic hearts. Although it brings nothing new to the table, pretty much prescribing to a familiar formula we've seen in many other movies, director Malik Bader at least does it with class, an engaging style and an unexpected twist. Come to think of it, I'm actually glad Bader's film has nothing to do Alan Shapiro's largely forgotten thriller, which would be the real disappointment. Given the usual quality of direct-to-video productions, this is a cut above the rest.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Millennium Entertainment brings 'Crush (2013)' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD25 disc inside the normal blue keepcase. Several skippable trailers commence at startup before viewers are greeted by the standard main menu options with music and full-motion.
'Crush' bears its heart to Blu-ray with an excellent and highly-detailed 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Fine lines and textures are very well-defined, even razor-sharp in several scenes. Facial complexions appear natural and lifelike, revealing the tiniest pores and hairs during close-ups and exposing trivial blemishes. Background information is plainly visible and distinct, most impressively during the poorly-lit interiors and within the darkest portions of the 1.85:1 image. Black levels are inky rich with deep, penetrating shadows, giving the picture a good deal of dimensionality, and contrast is spot-on with crisp, clean whites throughout. The color palette is bold and animated, particularly in the vivid primaries.
Unfortunately, the high-def transfer falls short of perfection mainly due to several instances of minor banding. There's also some posterization that's noticeable from time to time, though not as bad the aforementioned artifact, and highlights in daylights sequences seem a tad hotter than normal. However, for a majority of the runtime, the presentation is in excellent condition with much to admire.
As with the video, the movie arrives with a surprisingly good Dolby TrueHD soundtrack that's for the most part impressive. Although more of a front-heavy design, the rears are occasionally employed with various discrete effects which nicely enhance the soundfield. It's not really enough to generate an immersive environment, but they're effective and mostly satisfying. Imaging is broad and expansive with excellent channel separation and outstanding fidelity, creating a welcoming and engaging soundstage. Mid-range is distinct and dynamic, exhibiting superb clarity and detailed during the loudest moments as well as the quietest. Most notable is a highly-responsive and robust low-end, adding weight and intensity to the music and scenes of suspense. With well-prioritized and precise dialogue in the center, this lossless mix is a fantastic complement to the video and serves the film well.
Although it doesn't add or introduce anything new to a familiar formula, relatively new filmmaker Malik Bader delivers a surprisingly entertaining teen thriller in 'Crush (2013).' With a decently engaging story, a satisfying twist, good performances, and impressive direction, the direct-to-video feature is better than could be expected. The Blu-ray arrives with an excellent audio/video presentation, but only one measly supplement. The overall package is worth a rent for the curious.