Directed by: D.J. Caruso
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Sarah Roemer, Carrie-Anne Moss, David Morse, Aaron Yoo
If nothing else, D.J. Caruso’s Disturbia serves as an object lesson: If you don’t set your goals too high, you stand a fair chance of reaching them. Assuming that reasonably competent mediocrity was the goal here, Caruso and company have succeeded in arriving at their mid-level dreams. There are absolutely no surprises in Disturbia. It is exactly as advertised.
High-school boy Kale Brecht (Shia LaBeouf, Bobby) has an anger/guilt problem over the death of his father (Matt Craven, Deja Vu), and is sentenced to three months of house arrest after decking his Spanish teacher (Rene Rivera, Lords of Dogtown). Fed-up Mom (Carrie-Anne Moss) takes away most of his amusements, causing Kale to start playing Peeping Tom on his neighbors with his best friend, Ronnie (Aaron Yoo, TV’s The Bedford Diaries). This is innocent enough when focused on a pretty new neighbor, Ashley Carlson (Sarah Roemer, The Grudge 2), who, in fact, joins in their game. It becomes not so innocent—and not so safe—when attention is turned to creepy neighbor Mr. Turner (played creepily by creepy David Morse).
There’s not much mystery here for the kids, who are reasonably sure Turner is a serial killer, and even less for the viewers who witness the murder the kids conveniently miss actually seeing. From there, it’s simply a matter of disbelieving Mom, disbelieving cops and menacing bad guy. Taken a step further, everyone behaves exactly as he or she is supposed to. No one goes outside the lines of their two-dimensional character for a moment. They are exactly who they are—hero, mom, heroine, goofy best friend, bad guy—and that’s it. In a way, it’s actually kind of restful. And while it’s never innovative, original or taxing, the approach makes Disturbia moderately effective for what it is while it’s on-screen. That you may find its supposed take on suburbia far less disturbing (despite its title) than Joe Dante’s The ‘Burbs (1989) is another matter.
It’s certainly not worth getting one’s knickers in a twist over the presumption of Caruso and screenwriters Christopher B. Landon (the apparently less devout brother of Michael Landon Jr.) and Carl Ellsworth (Red Eye) remaking Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), since that’s hardly what it ends up being. The premise is an obvious variation, but by the time the movie devolves into Teen Horror 101 with plastic-wrapped rubber corpses all over the place, unsettling laboratory/torture equipment, a sub-basement well of more rubber corpses and secret passages, Hitchcock has been replaced by Freddy Krueger Lite. No, Disturbia is merely moderately successful multiplex fodder, but at least it’s moderately successful. Rated PG-13 for sequences of terror and violence, and some sensuality.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke