Thursday, June 20, 2019

DWF ’19: Celebrity Crush

Jonathan Blakely is no Linda Blair. After appearing as a child actor in the cult 1980’s slasher Chain Face Clown, he managed to land a few acting jobs, but his adulthood career never amounted to much. Nevertheless, his biggest fan, Emily Lynessa still developed a creepy fixation on him. She will act on her psychotic obsession when Blakely makes a convention appearance in Oliver Robins’ Celebrity Crush, which screens during this year’s Dances With Films, in Hollywood, USA.

By casting himself as Blakely, Robins automatically adds a layer of meta-notoriety to the film, since he appeared as young Robbie Freeling in Poltergeist I and II (but he didn’t get to make the trip to Chicago in Poltergeist III). Frankly, most fans probably better remember the late Heather O’Rourke as Carol Anne, but Robins was there too. In Crush, Blakely’s feelings about Chain Face are rather complex. There is bad blood between him and the producers (or maybe they are the rights holders, since they all look like they are about the same age), but he has just started cashing in on the lucrative convention circuit.

Blakely’s old co-star Peter Norvis was supposed to guide him through the gig, but he will become Lynessa’s first victim instead. Technically, she has no desire to hurt Blakely (whereas Norvis, not so much). The deranged fan just wants to live happily ever after with Blakely, so she is willing to drug him and hold him in captivity. Wisely, she does this in Florida, the home state of Scientology, where such things happen all the time.

It is impossible to escape the long shadow Misery casts over Crush, especially since the Stephen King adaptation is a superior film in every possible way. Frankly, Crush just looks cheap and many of its performances are rather awkward, to put it diplomatically. Admittedly, Robins and company are intentionally going for a grubby, lo-fi look and texture, but this film hardly passes for professional grade.

Arguably, the best part about Crush is the way Robins intercuts footage of Chain Face Clown throughout the film, at particularly fateful or intense moments. Ironically, these scenes are visually more intriguing and scarier than the actual narrative involving Blakely and Lynessa.

Robins is not bad as his analog and Melissa McNerney is pretty good as Blakely’s long-suffering fiancée. Admittedly, Jake T. Getman is also well-cast as the young Blakely in the film-within-the-film, but that is about as far as it goes. Yet, perhaps the greatest problem with the film is its tonal indecisiveness, frozen in a no man’s land between nostalgic shtick and Annie Bates’ hobbling scene. Not recommended, Celebrity Crush screens tomorrow (6/21), as part of Dances With Films.