If the horror genre has taught us anything it’s that the mind of a genius can be a very scary thing. Pair it with the turbulence of a pubescent girl’s mind and you’ve got trouble.
When Nick (Cary Elwes) moves into the guest house of a rich family in a quiet upscale town he quickly grabs the attention of the 14 year old daughter, Adrian. She wastes no time letting him see her just the way she wants to be seen, “headstrong” as her mother calls it, “special” as her father calls it, but most importantly, as a desirable young woman. At first, Nick is flattered by her flirtations but by the time he realizes the line between innocence and danger is blurring, it’s too late. Adrian WILL NOT be rejected. Adrian WILL NOT let people get in her way. As a haunting reminder of this she points out to Nick that “accidents happen”.
So how far will she go to make these “accidents” benefit her? Very.
The pyschological-thriller is a sub-genre of horror that flourished in the 1990s; The Crush (Alan Shapiro 1993) is no exception. It’s a shining example of what you can do when you’re willing to further twist an already uncomfortably twisted tale. I’m referring to the fact the film is heavily indebted to Stanly Kubrick’s 1961 Drama Lolita (based on the 1955 Nabokov novel of the same title).
Images such as Adrian sun-bathing in front of Nick’s window, or swinging in the backyard are reminiscent of Kubrick's devious little Charlotte Haze, and Humbert’s uncontrolled responses. But Nick is different, his recognition of Adrian as a little girl rarely wavers, and it is this that keeps him grounded. In moments, he sees Adrian, catches himself seeing her, and pulls himself away. His curious attraction to her never blossoms into any kind of obsession. When Adrian’s desperate pursuit of him turns violent he is backed into a corner, knowing there is nothing he can do to prove she is a threat over him. Her own friend warns, “Adrian knows things that other kids don’t know. She even knows about wasps”.
This film is incredibly well put together, so I have no idea why Shapiro has not done more work. The atmosphere is always tense, which keeps the viewers attention even though the action does not pick up until the last 20 minutes or so. The drama is always delivered with suspense, and as the plot unfolds, we get to watch Adrian begin to lose her grip. Slowly she moves from calculatedly devious, to completely psychotic. The culmination of all of this finally comes as a beautiful rendition of the carousel sequence in Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951).
Even after more than two whole decades, this film is nearly perfect. If it’s aged at all it’s only to have become an example of how much great work came out of the 90s.