Disturbia Review

by Ed Lau on August 11, 2007


Disturbia is a 21st century homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1954 film, Rear Window, utilizing many of the same elements: an immobilized main character snooping around on his neighbors, a beautiful sidekick and some serious scares. While James Stewart’s photojournalist was stuck in his room due to a broken leg, Disturbia‘s lead character Kale Brecht is there under house arrest. Shia LeBeouf, who we also saw in this summer’s Transformers, plays Kale, a teenager dealing with his father’s death by getting in trouble, culminating in punching out his jerk teacher, which earns him an ankle bracelet that keeps him in his house.

Disturbia Shia LeBeouf

The movie opens as a picture of suburban tedium as Kale sits in his room, playing video games, building a tower of Twinkies and getting bored out of his mind. He starts to get into playing voyeur, observing the patterns and routines of his neighbors and spying on the hot girl that just moved in next door. Before we go any further with the plot, Sarah Roemer who plays the aforementioned hot girl, Ashley, is seriously hot in this movie. She soon notices Kale spying on her but instead of getting mad, she comes over and hangs out.

Disturbia Shia LeBeouf Sarah Roemer

Before long, Kale notices that his neighbor Robert Turner fits the description of a serial killer he heard about on the news and what started as a bit of a long shot starts to become more and more plausible as he observes more commonalities between Turner and the murderer.

This was LeBeouf’s first serious breakout role after smaller ones in Constantine and I, Robot and he is shaping up to be the young star everyone has hyped him up to be. He plays the part very well without looking like he’s trying too hard. David Morse, whom most of us remember as the guy that isn’t Ed Harris in The Rock, is very creepy as the potential killer. Roemer is effective as the literal girl-next-door and, although I didn’t think she would really break out of the “Trinity” type-casting, Carrie-Ann Moss is also quite good as Kale’s mother. However, I didn’t know it was her until I saw the credits.

Disturbia David Morse Carrie Ann Moss

Disturbia is a very smart thriller in many ways, especially in a time when slasher films like Saw and Hostel are the first things people think of when they think scary. It’s very sophisticated in that the tension is quite understated. I don’t want to give much away but remember that in one of the scariest scenes of all time, the shower in Psycho, you never see the knife actually stab Janet Leigh (well, technically you do but just barely). Sometimes the scariest things are what you don’t see…or even worse, what you think you saw.

What didn’t work for me was all the elements of the film that seemed a bit “tacked on” in nature. The movie changes tones many times and I think made this a good film rather than a great one.

Spoiler warning for what I’m about to say next…

The love story between Kale and Ashley feels truncated and she becomes a non-factor in the last third of the film. If she had appeared and been involved, I might not feel this way but there is significantly less emotional attachment to her due to her absence. It broke a cliche, really but at the same time, it wasn’t groundbreaking territory they were treading on so breaking it and taking her out of the last couple scenes detracted from the overall feel of the film.

Overall though, Disturbia is probably one of the more thrilling movies this year and I think most will enjoy it more if they haven’t seen Hitchcock’s Rear Window although after they do see the 1954 classic, they’ll probably agree the old school film is superior. Disturbia pulled over $80 million at the box office and is well worth a rental.

Verdict: 7.5 out of 10

in Entertainment

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