Celebrity Crush is about as indie as horror films come: Low budget, in your face, and not without a campy charm. Written and directed by Oliver Robins, the film takes a well-known concept and tries to give it a meta twist. However, the number of cliches on screen may make viewers want to watch one of the films from which Celebrity Crush’s script is borrowing ideas.
The film follows a former child actor named Jonathan Blaklee (Robins) who is remembered for his role in a hit 80s horror flick called Chain-Faced Clown. While attending a convention to celebrate a special anniversary release of the film on Blu-Ray, he meets a young woman named Emily (Alissa Scheider). Unbeknownst to him, she is his biggest fan. After a one-night stand, Jonathan finds himself held captive in Emily’s home, having to live out her bizarre fantasies.
The “deranged fan” template is nothing new to the horror genre. Many films have utilized it to good measure, including The Fan, Fatal Attraction, and Misery. It’s hard not to think of those films while watching Celebrity Crush. But what makes the captor compelling in those films, especially Annie Wilkes in Misery, are the subtleties in their characterization and how those are revealed to much horror as the narratives unfold.
Robin’s film begins on a creepy note. A young girl watches a VHS copy of Chain-Face Clown and revels in the violence its killer imparts on its unsuspecting victims. This girl is later revealed to be Emily. Sadly, Emily comes across as a one-dimensional character, as does Jonathan. As a child star himself—Robins starred as Robbie Freeling in the first two Poltergeist entries—it is interesting to think about elements of his life that Robins drew from to write the script. But there are inherent problems at the script level that fail to make the film compelling.
One element that seems to affect the narrative is a flashback structure. As Emily reveals things to Jonathan—such as stealing his phone and texting his fiance Michelle (Melisa McNerney) that he’s leaving her, or setting up a fake meeting with shitty film producer acquaintances of Jonathan in order to take them hostage and torture them in front of him—the flashbacks are awkwardy timed and don’t really add much to the story.
Another problem that arises is tone. By trying to be meta, the film has a difficult time deciding when to be serious or satirical. Situational humor arises at points, but other times the alleged comedic elements don’t land. If meant to be comedic, shouldn’t viewers be laughing along with the filmmakers, rather than at what they created?
Still, the film possesses a sense of charm, a reminder of why we love our horror icons. It also has a gory eye trauma scene that would make Lucio Fulci proud. Celebrity Crush is neither the year’s worst horror film—that designation belongs to A24’s The Lodge (fight me, Film Twitter)—nor the best. It comfortably rests somewhere in the middle. It’s brisk enough to pass the time and can potentially develop a cult following. As long as it doesn’t produce more killer fans like Emily.
Rating: 4 out of 10 stars
|Runtime:||1 hr 18Mins.|