Disturbia (2007)

disturbia IMDb

As far as remakes of Alfred Hitchcock classics go, this one isn’t half bad. I’ll always be a bigger fan of Rear Window, but Disturbia puts enough of a spin on the story to set itself apart. It also succeeds where a lot of contemporary thrillers fail, by relying more on suspense than gore.

Instead of being confined to a wheelchair due to a broken leg as Jimmy Stewart was in Rear Window, Shia LaBeouf is under house arrest after assaulting his teacher. His mother quickly removes any electronic comforts (because she is a good parent), leaving LaBeouf to come up with creative ways to fill the hours. He eventually becomes obsessed with the mini soap operas occurring up and down the street, particularly within the home of his secretive next door neighbor.

Sure, LaBeouf is no Stewart and his blonde love interest (Sarah Roemer) is no Grace Kelly, but it’s not fair to compare anyone to  actors of their calibre. LaBeouf and Roemer do a good job, though, as does the rest of the cast. The real stand out for me is David Moore as the possibly murderous neighbor. His ability to switch from charming to creepy is uncanny.

My only complaint with this movie is that it switches gears so quickly. The first half of the movie is quite humorous, focusing on LaBeouf battling boredom and watching his more conventional neighbors’ habits (a husband cheating on his wife with the housekeeper, preteen boys watching porn, the stuff of Desperate Housewives really). There is a build up of suspense as the teens begin noticing that something is amiss next door, which I enjoyed as it remind me a lot of Rear Window. But then in the last half hour or so the tone suddenly changes. We’re now in the middle of a horror film. The switch is more abrupt than called for, mostly because instead of just being a murderer as in the original, this neighbor is revealed to be a serial killer. The filmmakers obviously wanted to up the ante, but it’s a bit too much.

At the very least there is very little blood and gore. I hate how over the top violence has become so ubiquitous in scary movies. That doesn’t scare me, it’s just gross (or hilarious, in the case of Quentin Tarantino). Suspense seems to be a dying art in film, but Disturbia does a fair job at recreating the old Hitchcock magic.

Rating: B+

This is a reboot of sorts of the Alfred Hitchcock classic Rear Window. It is surprisingly well done, considering it has been turned into a teen thriller. Say what you will about Shia LaBeouf, the kid has talent. He has charisma and also has some acting ability when he isn’t interacting with green boxes that would be turned into Transformers in post-production. His recent performance in a movie called Lawless is really good. I suggest anyone who wants to bag Shia to check him out in that film, he is really good.

LaBeouf plays Kale, a high schooler who is reeling from his father’s death in a car accident. Kale blames himself for the accident as he was driving the car and is still struggling with guilt a year later. When one of his teachers tries to ask him about it, he lashes out and assaults him. Kale is sentenced to 3 months home detention, where he cures his boredom by spying on his neighbours. He watches them for most of the day, so much that he knows all of their timetables and uncovers plenty of dirty laundry, like his neighbour’s extra-marital affair with their cleaner. He also starts watching the newly moved in neighbour girl, Ashley (Sarah Roemer). She is attracted to the bad boy under house arrest and develops a relationship with him. Kale is also watching his next door neighbour Mr. Turner (David Morse). He believes he witnesses him murdering a young girl and along with Ashley and his best friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), start searching for proof of his killings. His task is made difficult by the fact he is tethered to his house all day and Turner always manages to stay one step ahead of them.

As I said, this remake of Rear Window is surprisingly OK. I would have expected a remake of a film like that but populated by teenage leads to be pretty ordinary, but the charm of LaBeouf and a duplicitous villain that is able to make the audience think twice about his intentions make this an OK film.

Rating: C

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