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Face-Off: The Crush vs. Fear

Love can be a wonderful thing, but it can also be a very dangerous thing, and since this is the week of Valentine's Day it seemed like the perfect time to have a Face-Off between two stories of the dangerous variety of love. Specifically, we're looking at a couple films that took the idea of FATAL ATTRACTION and re-cast it with teenagers in lead roles. First up is director Alan Shapiro's THE CRUSH, which was released in 1993. Its opponent in this Face-Off is James Foley's FEAR, which reached theatres three years after THE CRUSH. Which one is the better teenage variation on FATAL ATTRACTION? Let's find out.

LOVESICK

Alicia Silverstone plays 14-year-old Adrian Forrester (or Darian if you saw the theatrical cut, before the real Darian the character is based on filed a lawsuit), a girl who seems to have it made. Her parents are wealthy and she is exceptionally smart - she has skipped two grades, is a piano prodigy, and can ghost write articles for trendy magazines. Unfortunately, she also has a mental illness that makes her dangerous to anyone she wants but can't have. Which is everyone she falls for. Adrian is able to hide her issues very well, her sweet and innocent act is very convincing, but beneath that facade she is deeply disturbed. She is quite willing to harm people and destroy their lives.

Mark Wahlberg delivers a performance that is almost equally amusing and chilling as David McCall. It's when David is putting on the nice guy act that he comes off as so totally cheeseball that it's laughable. But when David has a flash of anger in his eyes or violently lashes out at someone, Wahlberg takes on an effectively unnerving, intimidating screen presence. After somehow winning a girl over with that nice guy act, David proves to be violently possessive, and anyone who stands between them is in danger of being flat-out murdered. David isn't alone in these acts, he has a group of criminal friends who are completely on board to help him out no matter what he wants to do to people.

OBJECT OF OBSESSION

Adrian basically falls in love with 28-year-old writer Nick Eliot at first sight, which makes more sense than having her fall for him after getting to know him. I don't think she would have. He may be handsome, being played by a young Cary Elwes, but this guy is about as bland as a person can get. Adrian's fascination with him is the only interesting thing Nick has going for him. Nick needed to be a good guy who's in the right so we would be on his side all the way (aside from when he briefly lets Adrian kiss him), but he didn't have to be quite so milquetoast.

16-year-old Nicole Walker (Reese Witherspoon) is the sort of teen who feels like she has reached an age where she doesn't have to listen to parental figures anymore. But given that her father is over-worked and over-protective and her stepmother says her makeup makes her look like a slut, it's kind of understandable that Nicole would be rebellious. Nicole doesn't do much more than show attitude and make dumb decisions throughout the movie, but David isn't looking for an amazing girl, he just wants a good looking one that he can take ownership of. Nicole it is. "4eva".

INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR

As is usually the case, the issues with Adrian start out small. A picture of Nick as a little boy disappears from his apartment, obviously she took it. She crosses boundaries and rewrites his latest article without asking. Then comes comments she shouldn't be making, and the kiss. When Adrian feels truly rejected, she goes out of control. She defaces Nick's car, deletes his work, and even goes so far as to frame Nick for sexual assault. She steals some semen from a trashed condom for a more convincing presentation. You definitely do not want to get on this girl's bad side, she is a total hellion.

David doesn't do much scheming, he's more reliant on his fists, his feet, or weapons. When he's not attacking people, he likes to get girls high on crack and then force himself on them... But nobody better touch Nicole while he's off doing that. He does torment Nicole's dad a bit, busting up his nice car and leaving a taunting note saying "Now I've popped both your cherries!" He also repeatedly punches himself in the chest so he can make Nicole think her dad physically attacked him. But overall, people don't have to worry about David ruining their lives, he'll end them instead.

ESCALATING VIOLENCE

As if ruining a person's reputation and giving them a criminal record isn't bad enough, Adrian can also get violent at times. There's back story of a camp counselor being poisoned, she manipulates events so a friend of hers is injured in a riding accident, and she fills a room occupied by a rival with wasps. By the end she's not even trying to hide her violent side, tying people up, bashing heads, beating Nick with a club and knocking him down some stairs... This film saves all of the physical assaults for the end, when Adrian is unleashed.

It doesn't take much for David to get violent. When he sees a male friend touching Nicole, he knocks the guy to the ground and kicks the hell out of him. The guy keeps hanging out with her and dares to stand up to him, so David goes ahead and murders him. After Nicole's dad vandalizes the house he and his friends share, David and his pals weapon up for revenge. They decapitate the Walker family dog and raid the house, aiming to kill everyone inside except Nicole. The home invasion sequence makes up the last 15 minutes or so and is the highlight of the film.

HANDLING THE SITUATION

Nick takes a rather sensible approach to the Adrian situation - level-headedness is an attribute that comes with being so bland. At first he tries to talk sense into the girl. When that doesn't work, he tries to tell her parents about what she's doing. The parents don't believe him. The police don't buy his story, either. The one time he gets heated with Adrian in a public place, she makes a spectacle of it. The movie makes sure the viewer won't find fault with anything Nick does, and in the end puts him in a situation where he has to physically defend himself.

Nicole doesn't handle the David situation well, and most of the time she's on his side. She breaks up with him, she takes him back, she breaks up with him again. She tells him to stay away from her, but he doesn't. Her father does much more. He looks into David's background, warns him to keep away, sneaks into his house and destroys his stuff, calls the police trying to get him arrested. The police aren't much help, only advising Nicole to stay home. And there she is when David and his friends come busting in. Other people do most of the fighting, but Nicole does get in one hit.

THE CRUSH

This was a close one, and as it went along I had no idea which of these two films was going to come out the winner. In the end, THE CRUSH just barely squeaked by with the win, and it is the one I enjoy more. While it doesn't have anything as flashy as the home invasion sequence and a flawed Reese Witherspoon is somewhat more interesting than a bland Cary Elwes, I prefer watching a scheming Alicia Silverstone ruin someone's life over watching Mark Wahlberg play a douchebag.

Do you also prefer THE CRUSH over FEAR, or do you think FEAR should have been the winner here? Share your thoughts on these films in the comments section below. If you have any suggestions for future Face-Off articles, you can send them to [email protected].

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