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Overall Rating

Awesome: 10%
Worth A Look: 5%
Pretty Bad35%
Total Crap: 15%

6 reviews, 24 user ratings

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by Mel Valentin

"The killer next door is looking at you."
3 stars

Stop me if this sounds familiar: a character witnesses his neighbor murder someone (or it looks like a murder). No one believes him and, along with his girlfriend and/or friend, he's forced to play detective, hoping that the police will eventually believe him. But the killer catches on to the hero and he becomes the killer's next target. Sounds like Alfred Hitchcock's classic mystery/thriller, "Rear Window," right? It's not, actually. It’s D.J. Caruso's ("Two for the Money," "Taking Lives," "The Salton Sea") latest film, "Disturbia," is an unexpectedly suspenseful, if often contrived teen thriller. "Disturbia" is short on subtext, short on social commentary, but it rarely lets down its audience, thanks to glossy visuals, tight pacing, and surprisingly literate dialogue.

Moody, uncommunicative, and nursing an SUV-sized trauma, Kale Brecht (Shia LaBeouf) gets arrested for assaulting his high school Spanish-language teacher. A semi-sympathetic judge sentences Kale to three months house arrest. An electronic ankle bracelet limits Kale’s movements to a 100-foot perimeter around his house. Frustrated with Kale's unrepentant behavior, Kale's mother, Julie (Carrie-Anne Moss), bans Kale from playing online video games and downloading music. Bored, Kale picks up a pair of binoculars and starts to spy on his neighbors, including the girl-next-door, Ashley (Sarah Roemer), a recent transplant from the big city, and far more dangerously, Robert Turner (David Morse), a neighbor with a few eccentric habits.

As Kale continues to spy on Turner, he begins to suspect that Turner's behind the recent disappearance of a local woman and that he may be a serial killer. While romancing Sarah, Kale enlists his best friend, Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), to assist gathering evidence. Turner, though, catches on that he's being watched and thus begins a cat-and-mouse game between Kale and Turner, with Sarah, Ronnie, and Julie in danger. Kale also has to contend with an entirely unsympathetic, disbelieving police officer, Officer Gutierrez (Jose Pablo Cantillo), who just happens to be a close relative to Kale's high school teacher. The collection of clues, however, suggest Kale and his friends are on to something.

Written by Christopher B. Landon (Another day in Paradise) and Carl Ellsworth (Red Eye), Disturbia doesn't do much to shake its association with Rear Window, down to its trio of characters, multiple screens or windows for the mobility-challenged central character to peer into, but without the seriocomic exploration of marriage and courtship Hitchcock and his screenwriter, John Michael Hayes, layered into the mystery/thriller storyline. Rear Window was and is a sophisticated, subtext-heavy film (e.g., voyeurism, spectatorship, and the pitfalls of monogamy). Disturbia isn’t particularly deep. Subtext or social commentary are pushed into the background, but in updating the storyline to a contemporary, relatively affluent setting, it also accepts that the so-called surveillance society is here. The right to privacy is a thing of the past. Given the mystery/thriller trappings of Disturbia, discovering and apprehending a murderer is a net positive.

Look at Disturbia’s closely, though, and it quickly becomes evident that it doesn’t make much sense. Where Rear Window’s scenario skirted plausibility but never broke through to the other side, Disturbia sets plausibility aside altogether during the third act, when Caruso and his screenwriters take Kale down into a suburban house of horrors that’s as implausible (given the location and likelihood of discovery) as it is genuinely creepy (with as much implied violence as a PG-13 rating allows). As Disturbia moves toward the inevitable confrontation between Kale and Turner, the supporting characters shift in and out of jeopardy, disappearing when unneeded, but reappearing when needed to push the plot forward toward the all-too predictable denouement.

A teen thriller, though, is only as good, or to be more accurate, only as watchable, as its lead actors are. Luckily, "Disturbia"] has a strong lead in Shia LaBeouf (the forthcoming "Transformers," "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints," "The Greatest Game Ever Played," "Holes"), and equally strong supporting turns from Roemer (shaky in one or two scenes, but credible nonetheless), Yoo (a bit overbroad, though), Moss (slipping comfortably into the suburban mother role), and Morse (a pro at “quietly menacing” characters). There’s only one "Rear Window," and while "Disturbia" doesn’t even come a distant second, it still manages to be equal parts gripping, suspenseful, and entertaining (plausibility issue aside, of course).

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originally posted: 04/14/07 10:43:12
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/05/18 Anne not too bad 2 stars
12/29/17 morris campbell fun tense rear window retread 4 stars
3/25/09 brian First hour is okay, then it turns into a slasher cliche fest with un-scary horror. 3 stars
3/08/09 SandySue Kept my attention all the way through. 3 stars
9/26/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome Cast!! 5 stars
6/06/08 TreeTiger Crap, crap, crap..! 1 stars
1/09/08 Who's your daddy? Fun movie - all you slammers relax abit 4 stars
11/16/07 R.W.Welch Rear Window light. Has teen appeal but is too contrived. 3 stars
10/28/07 Joe Smaltz draged on for the first hour and a half, but picked up during the last few minutes. 3 stars
9/25/07 Beau took to long for suspense and scary scenes to appear! herendous dialogue, a so so movie 3 stars
9/23/07 your mom THIS FILM IS AWSOME!!! GO SEE IT! 5 stars
9/19/07 Roman You guys are dumb, Shia's prformance in Disturbia brought him up to the top, 5 stars
9/17/07 Indrid Cold The fact that Carrie-Anne Moss is 40 years old is by far the scariest aspect of this movie. 3 stars
9/11/07 Jack ABSOLUTE SHOCKER, POOR POOR FILM, DO NOT GO AND SEE THIS! Shia Lebouef worst actor... EVER 1 stars
9/07/07 claudzx3 brilliant movie but very VERY scary 4 coz i saw it and i am like 12 lol 5 stars
9/04/07 faithly ridriguez i love it !!! the suspense was killin me... 5 stars
8/22/07 Double M Predictable - irrational move - predictable! still, fun parts. kids my age (20) may like it 3 stars
8/13/07 Wee Todd Didd Nothing special, didn't totally suck, but just so so 2 stars
7/08/07 Tom Servo You hear's the sound of Hitchcock rolling in his grave-verdict= F 1 stars
5/17/07 Ole Man Bourbon Not much to it 3 stars
5/11/07 Tiffany Great Film 5 stars
4/30/07 Caiphn Boring, ridiculous dialogue, I walked out after 45 minutes. Avoid this. 2 stars
4/23/07 Courtney I heart this movie. At first I thought it was going to be retard. Go see it. 4 stars
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  13-Apr-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 07-Aug-2007



Directed by
  D.J. Caruso

Written by
  Christopher Landon
  Carl Ellsworth

  Shia LaBeouf
  David Morse
  Sarah Roemer
  Carrie-Anne Moss

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