Movie Review: Disturbia (2007)

It may be telling of my age when I admit that I’ve never seen the classic Hitchcock film, Rear Window (though, to my credit, my friends and I did try to rent it last night, but most movie rental places are closed at one in the morning). Though most have criticized the recent hit movie, Disturbia, as being a complete knockoff of it, I honestly can’t compare the two, and that may be part of the reason why I liked Disturbia so much.

The movie starts off by introducing us to Kale Brecht (Shia LaBeouf), who appears to be nothing more than an average 17 year old. That is, until he and his father end up in the midst of a horrible car accident. Kale, whom was driving the car at the time, gets away with just a few scratches, but horrifyingly ends up seeing his father die. Nearly a year later, Kale is struggling through classes, and when his Spanish teacher points this out and asks, “What would your father think?”, Kale goes a bit over the edge and resorts to punching his teacher in the face (even though I don’t generally condone violence, I’d have to admit that his teacher deserved it!).

Kale lands in court, and the judge goes easy on him- sentencing him to three months of house arrest. With an ankle bracelet making sure he can’t go further than 100 feet from his home, and his mother (Carrie Ann Moss) giving him a hard time, Kale resorts to the only form of entertainment he can find- staring out his windows with binoculars and spying on his neighbors. Kale becomes particularly fascinated in the dressing habits of his hot and mysterious next door neighbor, Ashley (Sarah Roemer), but one evening he notices that his neighbor, Robert Turner (David Morse), has the same exact car as a local serial killer who’s on the loose. Together, with Ashley and his best friend, Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), Kale tries to get down to the bottom of the mystery of Mr. Turner- but can they uncover his neighbor’s secret and still manage to stay alive?

It must be said that the acting in this movie is great. While I’ve always been a fan of Shia LaBeouf (Holes, I Robot, Transformers), it’s clear to see that he has successfully made the transition to an adult actor with this film (despite actually playing a teenager). LaBeouf has amazing presence on screen; he delivers his character perfectly, and I don’t think I would be far off in predicting a great acting future for LaBeouf . David Morse (St. Elsewhere, The Green Mile, House) also shines (and scares) as the suspected serial killer, Mr. Turner. Morse plays the character well; at first appearing to be nothing more than just a charming neighbor, and then later revealing himself as a demented killer. His performance in the film brings to mind Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, though the character of Mr. Turner is admittedly not as developed.

Kale’s “sidekicks” add to the film as well. Newcomer Sarah Roemer isn’t the best actress around, but does a good job of being the “hot” next door neighbor, and later proves to have great chemistry with LaBeouf. Fellow newbie, Aaron Yoo, outshines Roemer as far as the supporting roles go; he provides most of the laughs throughout the film, and has great comedic timing (the theater was literally laughing out loud during several of his scenes. Another crowd pleaser in the audience last night was during the beginning of the film when Kale jokes around with his father about having “knocked up” a girl and sending her off to Reno, Nevada, which is my hometown! The entire audience starting cheering- it was great!). Carrie- Ann Moss (The Matrix, Memento, Chocolat) takes the role of Kale’s mother, Julie, and while her on-screen time is pretty limited, she still manages to stand out.

Besides the terrific acting, the movie boasts a very engaging and suspenseful plot. Sure, the film is a bit predictable at times, but that didn’t stop most people (myself included) from jumping during certain scenes. There aren’t any “cheap scares” here, either; instead of relying on scary monsters as most horror films of late have, the movie actually has terrifying situations that will keep you on edge. The fact that Kale is home-bound becomes scarier and scarier as the movie goes on; he becomes more certain that Mr. Turner is the killer, but can’t save any of the victims because he’s on house arrest. I truly can only think of a few things more horrifying than seeing someone commit a murder and knowing you can do nothing about it.

Director D.J. Caruso and writers, Carl Ellsworth and Christopher B. Landon should also be commended for creating a great film. Sure, the critics will still continue to call Disturbia a rip-off of Rear Window, but honestly, how many movies these days are completely original anyway? If you’re still hung up on Hitchcock’s classic, I’d say push it out of your mind and go into the movie as though you’d never seen anything similar. Whether you’re a fan of the classic or not, Disturbia is a great film that is definitely worth watching.

Just don’t forget to close your blinds when you go home tonight.

Rating: 5 stars

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GHz3C5coSI]
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