In the wake of the 1992 release of the neo-noir erotic thriller Basic Instinct, one of the highest grossing films of that year, came a slew of copycats. Some released in theaters, a lot lined the shelves of video rental companies, and others still just aired on TV, typically Cinemax; this is the origin of the phrase “Skinemax,” which references the channel’s constant showing and producing of these kinds of cheap, titillating films.
Typically, these sorts of silly mysteries punctuated by overly flashy, poorly edited softcore sex scenes would star the likes of Shannon Tweed or Kari Wuhrer. They sported sordid titles such as Human Desires and Sensation. By and large, this subgenre is considered bottom tier and with the internet fast gaining prominence in the mid to late 1990s, their most primal appeal quickly faded away as well. That is not to say classics don’t exist, but it does take an exceptional combination of writing and directing, with the stars having just the right chemistry, to feel anything other than sleazy. See the stark contrast of the first Basic Instinct versus its belated sequel.
Now comes Deadly Crush, which I am told is a newly crafted film but in every possible way comes from the mid-1990s. Brynn (Aria London) is a struggling painter whose poor choice of dating material often leaves her exhausted and unfocused on her work. Her agent, Sophia (Murisa Harba), springs for a cabin in the woods, near a small town. This getaway will hopefully recharge Brynn and allow her to paint like she never has before.
Unbeknownst to Brynn and Sophia, however, is that 40 years ago a murder occurred in that very cabin. In 1972, a trio of friends, Kit (Dakota Aesquivel), Holly (Jenna Willis), and Dusty (Stephen Anthony Bailey) committed a big robbery and laid low in the cabin for a short time. After divvying up their bounty, Kit goes to load one of the getaway cars. He hears gunshots and runs back inside. He discovers a fatally shot Holly just before Dusty shots him as well.
“…will hopefully recharge Brynn and allow her to paint like she never has before.”
Back in modern days, Brynn’s first long day of painting proves somewhat successful. She winds things done with a glass of wine. Once she goes to bed, the ghost of Kit comes to her… in a biblical sense. You read that right–a struggling painter gets it on with a ghost. The sex scene is badly edited with lots of cuts and odd close-ups of the actress grinding onto nothing. Up to this point, the overwrought acting, especially from lead London, who is awful in all the best ways (and looks silicone fake like Tweed), and the cheap production design were slightly amusing. However, Deadly Crush takes a hard right turn into the lurid world of so bad; it’s good brilliance with this scene.
Writer-director Dakota Aesquivel, the same person playing the ghost, really doesn’t set any kind of atmosphere up for this sequence. The lighting is especially bad, not just here but in all the sex scenes, with simple fluorescent lights and seemingly nothing else. This gives these sequences a seedy, icky vibe.
To be fair, the ghost doesn’t just show up apropos of nothing. While Brynn’s been painting, there are point-of-view shots of Kit looking down at her. However, that doesn’t prepare the audience for when the sheets move on their own and Brynn is lifted in the air while the ghost’s invisible head is between her legs. From this point, roughly 15 minutes in, for the next hour Deadly Crush is one of the most terribly fun films I have had the pleasure of watching in a long, long time.
Of course, Dusty is still alive, is now a sheriff, and played by William Sadler (I don’t know how a real actor wound up in this either). He is royally angry that some random person is in this cabin which he has tried to ensure has continually been listed as condemned. His desire to keep her, or anyone, out comes into focus as it is revealed the dead bodies of Holly and Kit are buried in the house.
“…gives these sequences a seedy, icky vibe.”
If this all there were to the film, I would not be able to call it good, but I could call highly entertaining. Alas, we do leave the cabin in the woods, and the movie loses it, hard. Kit discovers that he can possess dead people and animate their body, so he now has a corporeal presence. After killing Dusty, both Kit and Brynn run away but the bodies begin to pile up, and the cops start chasing them down.
Eventually caught, Brynn states she was kidnapped by the madman; though she does not go into the supernatural side of things, for obvious reasons. She then susses out that Kit might try to take out Sophia and take over her body to be with Brynn.
Gone are the silly POV shots, which do interestingly utilize color. No longer are there some of the most awkwardly filmed and poorly acted sex scenes in recent memory. All that these scenes outside of the cabin offer are London’s woefully inadequate acting abilities, cheap production values, and padding. They feel like filler, despite ostensibly being the resolution to the story at hand. It is dull and never engages the viewer the same way the crazier portions of the film are able to.
Deadly Crush is 20 years too late to the party, but it tries so hard anyway. Sadly, any fleeting sense of fun, be it of the actual or ironic variety, dissipates the instant the action leaves the main setting. If you don’t have access to the internet then maybe you’ll get something out of the film.
Deadly Crush (2018) Directed by Dakota Aesquivel. Written by Dakota Aesquivel. Starring Dakota Aesquivel, Aria London, Murisa Harba, William Sadler, Jenna Willis, Stephen Anthony Bailey.
2 Bottles Of Wine (out of 10)