A great many thrillers of the early '90s, including Single White Female (1992) and Whispers in the Dark (1992), have turned their paranoid, fearful gaze onto the subject of intimacy – and, in particular, everything that can go wrong the moment that certain personal and social boundaries are ignored.
Stepping beyond one's class or district, getting a little too friendly with one's psychotherapist or business client, blurring the line between Platonic friendship and sexual experimentation – these are only a few of the nightmare-triggering situations currently on display.
The Crush (not to be confused with Alison Maclean's New Zealand feature Crush ) is certainly not among the most distinguished entries in this cycle of thrillers, but it nonetheless manages to jangle a few raw nerves.
The plot is a fairly shameless mix-and-match of elements from Poison Ivy (1992), The Temp (1993) and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992). Nick (Cary Elwes) is an ambitious journalist whose career is complicated by his encounter with fourteen-year-old Darian (Alicia Silverstone) – not only a cute Lolita but also a child prodigy in art and science, and a masterful dissimulator.
Nick does no more than kiss Darian for a moment, but that is enough of a transgression to completely ruin all aspects of his life. He has to deal with the suspicions of his friends and colleagues, the hysterical threats of Darian's bullish father, and eventually a string of violent injuries inflicted on anyone in the vicinity who invites Darian's mad jealousy.
The narrative moves in The Crush are often mechanical and unimaginative, but its proudly trashy premise – a weak-willed hero irresistibly drawn by a woman who cannot be cleanly pegged as either a child or an adult – is vividly conjured.
Intriguingly, director Alan Shapiro hasn't had too many career breaks since – apart from helming the pilot for the TV version of Coppola's The Outsiders (1990) and, just possibly in 2007, hooking up for a project with Hilary Duff: the new Alicia Silverstone?
© Adrian Martin June 1994