A secret admirer develops a murderous crush on a high school soccer star.
A thoroughly professional thriller that draws good performances from its cast and delivers a winning blend of mystery, suspense and teenage romance.
Scott (Lucas Till) has it all: not only is he the star of his high-school soccer team, he’s bright, popular and a hit with the girls. His world comes to a juddering halt, however, when he injures his knee at a weekend party. Desperate to get back to full fitness so he can start playing again, he breaks off with his distraught girlfriend Jules (Sarah Bolger) and devotes all his energies to jogging and working out at the gym.
Meanwhile, shrinking violet Bess (Crystal Reed) confides to her grown-up friend Andie (Caitriona Balfe) that she has developed a huge crush on Scott. And at about the same time our hero finds he has attracted the attentions of a secret admirer. At first this takes the form of harmless love letters in his locker but it soon escalates into something much more sinister. As if that weren’t enough, Bess finds she has her own stalker in Jeffrey (Reid Ewing), a sweet but none too bright classmate.
Nothing especially ground breaking there, you might think, but in actual fact there’s more to this teen thriller than first meets the eye. First off the film presents a teenage milieu that is recognisably human and normal. So often in teen movies, high schools are depicted not so much as a seat of learning than as Machiavellian nests of intrigue, plot and counter-plot, people entirely by utterly ruthless sadists. In CRUSH high schools are shown to be what they actually are: a place where a great big bunch of hormonally-charged but essentially decent kids are thrown together in the hope that they get along. And refreshingly they mostly do; okay, some are more extrovert than others but there are no gangs to speak of, no bullying, and respect for the teachers seems to be high.
Second, having established a credible centre, the film introduces several well-drawn and overlapping relationships which show both sides of the romantic coin. I’d say anyone who is currently going through high school or remembers their school days well should recognise the joy and pain of teenage romance as depicted here.
Third, director Malik Bader does an excellent job of keeping the audience guessing. Indeed, at times you’re not even sure who the victim is, let alone the culprit. It’s to the film’s credit that there a good few possible suspects and the big reveal, when it does come, took me completely by surprise. Now, I’m no Sherlock Holmes but I’ve seen enough movies to see most plot twists coming but I didn’t see that one.
Lucas Till is personable enough as Scott but it’s usually the girls who get the best roles in these ‘secret admirer’ movies and CRUSH is no exception. Sarah Bolger does well as the initially sassy but then vulnerable and scared Jules, while Crystal Reed as the more complex – and possibly unhinged – Bess is equally good. There are a couple of good turns from the supporting cast too: Leigh Whannell (the creator of the SAW franchise) and Caitriona Balfe as the will they / won’t they couple running the store where Bess has a Saturday job.
As with a lot of modern thrillers, there’s rather too much information communicated by cell phone for my liking but I guess I’m a bit of a traditionalist in that respect. That’s nit-picking though. I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t expecting a lot from CRUSH because teen movies are usually a real turn-off for me. Okay so I’m not, ahem, in the demographic any more but generally speaking teenagers are ill-served by movies that are directed at them. I’m happy to say that’s not the case here: what you get is a gimmick-free, thoroughly professional – and, dare I say it, almost old fashioned – thriller that really delivers the goods.