CRUSH (Australia - 2009)
Studying architecture at the University of Western Australia on a student visa, banned US martial arts champ Julian (Chris Egan), gets a three month house sitting job at a spectacular mansion in Perth - much to the annoyance of his girlfriend Clare (Brooke Harman) who was going to live with him. Soon after moving in, Julian is seduced by the mysterious and beautiful Anna (Emma Lung), and his life begins to unravel; his relationship is in tatters, he loses the championship match (and his coach) and his final uni assignment goes missing ... During a series of increasingly strange and dangerous events, he tries to end the relationship with Anna but Anna's infatuation with him turns deadly.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This occasionally erotic supernatural thriller has one big thing going for it: it knows its audience, the young male market, and goes after it. Not only does it have a website (natch) the film has a presence on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter as well as YouTube. It's commercial, genre filmmaking - privately financed - and it features a soundtrack that resonates with its market, with the likes of Silverchair, Papa Roach, Something for Kate and Pacificer among others.
Awareness in its target market is essential, and young star Chris Egan (playing uni student Julian) will help drive curiosity. But it's Emma Lung who delivers the film's most haunting performance as the obsessive Anna, a femme fatale who won't take no for an answer. Lung builds her characterisation with magical subtlety as Anna's escalating obsession reveals itself to us in its final ghastly form. Egan is also tops as he charts Julian's downfall, and Brooke Harman is likeable and credible as Julian's girlfriend, Clare, who is a dispensable part of Anna's plot.
Although the film is admirably economical and short, it lacks pace in the first two acts, but is saved by attention to the supporting characters; Julian and Clare's uni friends, as well as by some adroit editing by Jason Ballantine - who cut Wolf Creek and Rogue. Another horror alumni, Jamie Blanks of Urban Legend fame, is here the composer of the score.
Direction, by writer John V. Soto and Jeff Gerritsen, is confident, and the screenplay has enough texture to make it interesting as a story, not merely a series of devices to try and cheat the audience. Also in its favour is a naturalistic tone that many Hollywood films in this genre shy away from; the result is a fresh take and a clear Australian stamp.
Review by Louise Keller:
A variation on the Fatal Attraction theme, Crush is a taut and eerie psychological thriller that makes a startling U-turn just when you think you know where it’s heading. John Soto’s writing and directing debut is effective, delivering an assured and slick film filled with chills, scares and the alluring sense of the unexpected. Central to the film’s success are strong performances by Chris Egan and Emma Lung, who create push-pull tension throughout. The film looks good too and Jamie Blanks’ creepy music and soundscape is superb.
‘It’s only for three months,’ Chris Egan’s Julian is told, when a stint as house-sitter comes up on the eve of his anticipated title fight. There are other things in Julian’s life that are also at risk – his relationship with girlfriend Clare (Brooke Harmon), his University studies and his residency status on Australia. All these things start to unravel, when he meets Emma Lung’s mysterious Anna, the girl in the red bikini, who appears on Day One at his new home. But what seems like ‘the life’ – the mansion with sweeping staircase, art on the wall, beer in the fridge, pool, comfy lounge and sophisticated security system – quickly becomes a nightmare, as Anna’s provocative banter and a night of passion becomes a claustrophobic web.
Soto creates tension by unexplained doorbells, blackouts, locked doors and dark shadows. Julian’s mind isn’t the only mind that is being messed with. We are on the edge of our seats waiting to see what happens next. By the time the story takes a sharp turn, we are deeply involved and from then on, we are freefalling, just like Julian. This is an excellent genre film and one that is deserving of a wide audience.
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CAST: Chris Egan, Emma Lung, Brooke Harmon, Christian Clark, Jenna Lind, Kane Manera, Luke Hewitt
PRODUCER: Deidre Kitcher
DIRECTOR: John V. Soto, Jeff Gerritsen
SCRIPT: John V. Soto
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Richard Malins
EDITOR: Jason Ballantine
MUSIC: Jamie Blanks
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nigel Devenport
RUNNING TIME: 82 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Filmscope Entertainment
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Perth: April 23, 2009