Directed by: D.J. Caruso
Premise: Kale, a high school student (Shia LaBeouf) on house arrest, spies on his neighbors and begins to believe that one of them is a serial killer (David Morse).
What Works: Disturbia spends a great deal of time on its set up but this pays off as it gives Kale some real character development. Although a great deal of the opening does not pay off directly in the rest of the film, it does make him a credible and sympathetic character and seeing what landed him on house arrest is far more effective than summarizing it in a few lines of dialogue the way other films would have. There are some fine performances by the cast, including Shia LaBeouf, who plays the frustration and paranoia of his character very well, Sara Roemer as Ashley, the love interest, and Aaron Yoo as Kale’s good friend and the film’s comic relief. The scenes between Kale and Ashley work very well and have been written very smart with an ear for dialogue and a sense of pacing that makes the love story as engaging as the murder mystery. Roemer plays her character smart and sassy and the script allows her much more intelligence than other films might have given to the girl next door. Disturbia is an unofficial remake of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and the film is able to take the basic concept of that film and combine it with contemporary anxieties and technology.
What Doesn’t: Unlike Hitchcock, who the filmmakers clearly hold in high regard (or at least pattern themselves after), Disturbia does not do much with the ambiguity of Morse’s character and lets the audience know pretty clearly what the score is. The film may have played better if there was more give and take. The ending comes a bit forced and abrupt. As the film moves into its third act and the hero and villain move into their final confrontation, the villain’s instigation comes as a surprise.
Bottom Line: Despite a few flaws, Disturbia is very entertaining and makes for an effective thriller. For a PG-13 film, it is able to get into some serious territory regarding the hidden madness and psychosexuality of the suburban environment and its characters are more than the teenage cardboard cutouts who often populate these kinds of films.
Episode: #141 (May 20, 2007)