Okay, so DreamWorks has remade Rear Window with teens, but could it actually be good? Welcome back to the edge of your seat.
Kale (Shia LaBeouf) is a teen with a recently troubled past. When he strikes his Spanish teacher in anger, the court opts to sentence Kale to three months house arrest in view of his circumstances. With his mom (Carrie-Anne Moss) fed up and cutting off all his video game and Internet subscriptions, Kale is left with little to do but start spying on his neighbors. Along with his buddy Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) and a new girl in the neighborhood named Ashley (Sarah Roemer), Kale learns that one of his neighbors might be a murderer… and might also know that Kale has been watching.
Disturbia definitely has its roots in Hitchcock, but as a DreamWorks film, there is also an eerie feeling that Steven Spielberg is haunting the production (in addition to being an executive producer). From the funny family interaction to the film direction and even the sudden shocks that come here and there, Disturbia rides out its PG-13 rating on the same edge that made Gore Verbinski’s The Ring so effective: you want to see it, and you don’t. Between actually caring about the likable characters on the screen and the shock of something worse than you imagine about to happen to them, this tightly edited thriller commands your attention and continuously goes further than you think it will.
While the story and editing are tight, the cast still has to sell the film. Carrie-Anne Moss as Kale’s mom scores cool points (“Dude! Your mom is Trinity? Sweet!”) but ultimately she’s given very little to do but look haunted most for most of the film. Shia LaBeouf is instead given the lion’s share of the screen time and fulfills his task of holding your attention. Relative newcomer Sarah Roemer (looking deliciously like Jessica Biel’s slightly younger sister) is the perfect catalyst for Kale’s voyeurism and paranoia. 6′-4″ David Morse plays the would-he-or-wouldn’t-he neighbor that becomes the focus of Kale’s attention.
The film’s not perfect and certainly takes a few liberties with reality, but the focus always remains on Kale’s point of view to heighten the tension and feeling of helplessness. Modern technology intended to bring things closer (video cameras, cell phones) are continuously twisted to perpetuate Kale’s isolation. What may work against the film is a surprisingly sophisticated story with a cast of teens that might be put off an older, more appreciative audience. But as far as thrillers go, this PG-13 rated film is far more thrilling than almost every R-rated horror film that’s dropped this year. Enjoy!
(a three skull out of four recommendation)