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I understand that the new movie Disturbia is about a person who is unable to leave his room and must look out the window for entertainment. During his peeping sessions, he finds that his neighbor might be a killer and by doing so, tries to get everyone around him to help find out the truth. That premise, and that premise alone, is the ONLY thing that likens this movie to Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece of tension and technical genius, Rear Window. Director D.J. Caruso has taken this script, no credit listed to the writers of that classic, and created a contemporary world around which he can create a cat and mouse chase from the small radius that our protagonist is allowed to travel within having a house arrest anklet affixed to his leg. If the critics are to be believed that this is a ripoff/remake, then every romantic comedy coming down the pipeline is one as well. Boy meets girl, boy must win girl, conflict causes relationship to stay strained, boy ultimately wins girl. Actually since every rom-com follows that exact plot sketch, they are more derivative than Disturbia to Rear Window because Caruso takes a premise, updates it, and makes it his own.

Worried that this might end up as another lame duck attempt from the director, I didn’t have too lofty of expectations. I am a fan of Shia LaBeouf, ever since his “Even Stevens” days, and knew he could give it credibility. Fortunately, after the highly disappointing Taking Lives and the ho-hum Two for the Money, it seems Caruso has come back to the form he had with his brilliant debut The Salton Sea. Maybe it was the recent work on “The Shield,” but we have some nice grit, close-up composition, and stylish camerawork. The realism from Sea is back and Disturbia brings it all to make one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen this year. We have fantastic humor—LaBeouf’s delivery and everyman rapport lends to this well—as well as effective scares and edge of your seat suspense. This is a PG-13 movie that knows what it is and rather than titillate with coming as close to the line as possible, stays in check and deals out a healthy dose of mood and emotion rather than blood and sex. I’d even go as far as saying Sarah Roemer’s girl-next-door is the most sensual role this year. It is all about her confidence and eyes, her body language makes it work, and you fall for her just as LaBeouf does, whereas the usual R-rated nudity and over the top craziness has been going so far as to numb audiences by doing what every film now does. Credit Caruso for showing restraint for everything and leading us along by uncovering pieces of the story only when we need to know them.

Besides LaBeouf, Roemer, and a funny turn from Aaron Yoo, the main driving force here is David Morse. This gem of a character actor is at the top of his game as the villainous, did he or didn’t he, neighborhood serial killer. He is good as the conflicted heavy who does wrong only when the world around him has forced him to, (like in Dancer in the Dark and Down in the Valley), but he is perfect as the all out creepy, sly-smiling force being accused of kidnapping and killing numerous women. Morse was allowed to run free and he took the opportunity and went even further with it. Where many suspense films like this would become laughable eventually, the realism brought out through LaBeouf and Morse keep the audience enthralled and interested in how everything will play out. I was never bored and at times actually wondering what would happen next because I was so caught up. When the climax comes, I actually was surprised thinking it was crazy that they would get us there so early, but I was just so into it that I didn’t realize how much time had past.

Disturbia is a genre film and won’t be winning any awards any time soon. What it may lack in total originality it more than makes up for in mood and effective thrills. It had everything you could want from a movie without making you have to think too much. Sit down, go for the ride and walk out of the theatre with the knowledge that your time was well spent. D.J. Caruso, thank you for redeeming yourself.

Disturbia 8/10

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photography:
[1] Sarah Roemer as Ashley and Shia LaBeouf as Kale in DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures thriller Disturbia – 2007. Photo Credit by Suzanne Tenner. TM & Copyright �2006 by Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.

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