A teeny-bopper re-imagining of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” starring a hip young cast of relevant trendsetters? Just what I’ve always wanted! I hope Director/Dance Lieutenant Boom Shaka Laka D.J. Caruso follows up this effort with a remake of “Vertigo” starring Justin Timberlake, or perhaps yet another remake of “Psycho”, but this time headlining Ashley Simpson!
Okay, okay, I’ve had my fun. Truthfully, “Disturbia” wasn’t nearly as bad as all that. While the “teeny-bopper re-imagining of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’” is entirely honest, “Disturbia” is surprisingly watchable for what it is.
After losing his dad in a car accident, teenage boy Kale (Shia LaBeouf) develops anger issues which eventually lead him to three months of house arrest. If he attempts to leave his front lawn a sensor will trip and police will arrive to kick the mortal Hell out of him. To pass the time, Kale and his Studio Mandated Ethnic Friend (Aaron Yoo) take to voyeurism. While spying on his new neighbor, Ashley (Sarah Roemer), Kale is spotted. Like most teenage girls, Ashley is turned on by the thought of a creepy young man watching her with binoculars from across the street and the two immediately fall in love. But there is something disturbing going on in suburbia (get it!?), namely a spooky old man named Mr. Turner (David Morse) whom the trio of teenage peeping toms spy murdering someone. Well, they think they saw him murdering someone. It was kinda hard to tell, but c’mon, the guy mows his lawn twice a day, he’s got to be a serial killer. So the kids investigate this local terror, stuff gets scary and people die. Or do they? Aha, see how that works? That’s the hook! Genius.
I know, I know, you’ve seen it all before in “Rear Window”, its ill-conceived remake starring Superman and the jillions of parodies made over the decades. So, what does “Disturbia” have to offer the formula in order to make this version necessary? Not much, really.
The movie tries to be, like “Rear Window”, a mystery suspense thriller leaving the audience to wonder whether Mr. Turner is really a maniac or not. Unfortunately, the marketing campaign for the film thought that would be too boring and is thus considerably less ambiguous about the villain’s mental health, showing the audience some key scenes that pretty much spoil all of the “mystery”. So, that makes this a “mystery suspense thriller” with the “mystery” ruined and the “suspense” considerably diluted. We’re not getting off to a good start, here.
Alright, so those things aside, is it any good? Well, it’s not awful. They take the “Rear Window” formula and spice it up with some modern technology which does add to the “thriller” aspect. Portable video cameras and cell-phones provide a good bit of suspense, even with the mystery aspect wasted. The acting isn’t half bad. Shia LaBeouf plays the angsty youth quite well and David Morse hardly skips a beat as the creepy neighbor. I mean, they’re good, but not really impressive. They just play the roles well-enough to keep the audience from cringing or rolling their eyes or dropping out of the experience. Sarah Roemer is the weaker link of the cast. It seems MC Caruso McDancealot was going more for looks than acting prowess when he selected her.
What it all boils down to is that “Disturbia” is a “wait until HBO” flick, or a “bored out of my skull” rental at the very best. It’s not terrible, but it’s just not special.