A taut, engaging and extremely gripping thriller done in true Hitchcock style – paired with a modern feel and a snappy sense of humor.
I heard about this movie back in the spring sometime when Shia LaBeouf was making the rounds of all the talk shows. Since it sounded to me like just some cheesy Rear Window rip-off, I wasn’t particularly interested in it. I’ve always loved Rear Window, and I didn’t think it needed to be remade, especially as a teen slasher flick.
I love it when I’m wrong. This movie was an absolute blast.
I decided I would watch it after I saw Transformers in the theater earlier this summer. Now, I couldn’t stand Transformers – I told the group I was with that apparently I “was not in the target demographic” (meaning idiots who would enjoy an Independence Day remake that is way more stupid than the original, only with toy robots instead of aliens) – but I did think Shia LaBeouf was the only good thing in the movie. His acting made that eight hour movie (well, that’s how long it felt to me, anyway) a little more bearable, and I thought that he was certainly way better than this piece of crap about giant robots deserved. So, when Disturbia came out on Blu-Ray, I decided to give it a spin.
Many of those reading this may have never seen Rear Window, so before I go into Disturbia, let’s go over the original briefly. L. B (Jimmy Stewart) is holed up in his apartment, recovering from a badly broken leg that keeps him wheelchair bound. He can’t leave until his leg heals, so his only entertainment (apart from visits from his girlfriend Lisa, played by Grace Kelly) is watching the neighbors in his large apartment complex through the back window of his living room. Every time Lisa visits, L.B. gives her the run-down on what he thinks everyone else around him is doing, based on what he has deduced from watching them through his binoculars. But one night, he spies one of his neighbors apparently committing murder… or did he? The rest of the movie is a great cat-and-mouse thriller as he tries to figure out if the neighbor really did commit murder. At the end, a murderer is dealt with, and L.B. now has two broken legs – among several other injuries. If you haven’t seen it, or if you have forgotten it, go get it and watch it now. I’ll wait.
Back already? Great. Now that you have that background, let’s go into our modern update/remake Disturbia. Kale (Shia LaBeouf) is a high school student still reeling over the death of his beloved father (whose death is stunningly revealed in the first five minutes of the film). In a fit of righteous anger, he slugs one of his teachers during a heated argument. Pleading guilty to assault, he is sentenced to three months of house arrest. He must wear an ankle bracelet that allows him to get no more than about forty feet outside of this front door. And, to further his punishment, his mother has cut off his access to video game and music networks over the internet. And his best friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) has gone off to Hawaii on vacation.
So, Kale starts to spy on his neighbors through the windows of his father’s study. One of his favorite viewing subjects is new next door neighbor Ashley (Sarah Roemer). By the time his friend Ronnie returns from Hawaii, Kale has deduced the entire lives of his neighbors. And as he explains all this to Ronnie, they spy what appears to be a murder by the strange man next door – the man that Kale has already begun to suspect as being connected to a recent missing person’s case shown on the news.
Of course, Kale, Ronnie, and Ashley are drawn into the story as they attempt to solve the murder – while trying to avoid becoming the killer’s latest victims. As they get more and more involved, so will you: I yelled at the screen constantly during this movie, including an “Oh my God is that gross!” near the end.
Honestly, I have nothing but good things to say about this movie. Every member of the cast is perfect. Shia LaBeouf really may be the next Tom Hanks – he’s that good, and he really is almost instantly likable. I was also very impressed with the performance of Aaron Yoo, who plays best friend Ronnie. It’s great to see a multicultural friendship in modern America that is so normal that it’s not even commented on during the movie.
The story moves along perfectly. There are no gaping plot holes. Everyone does exactly what real people would do in the same situations. And while there is a lot of humor that arises from the natural interplay of the characters, this is an honest-to-God scary movie with real danger and real thrills.
Watch this one with the lights out, watch it all in one sitting, and be prepared to yell and scream at the screen (“Don’t go in there! Are you crazy? He’s right behind the door!”). And if Disturbia doesn’t disturb ya, then you are one hardened puppy.