STARRINGShia LaBeouf - Kale Brecht
Sarah Roemer - Ashley Carlson
David Morse - Robert Turner
Carrie-Anne Moss - Julie Brecht
Aaron Yoo - Ronnie
Year - 2007
Score - 3 Howls Outta 4
I think it's common for most of us to be born with this urge to look out our windows and spy on the people in our neighborhoods. From the elderly woman across the street who enjoys baking pies for her fellow neighbors, to the bratty next door children who become addicted to hiding inside their house after throwing food inside the angry pizza man's open delivery car, and to that dude who has to speak so loudly on his cell that I know that he had sex with Phil, Jack, and Sasha during the week [I hope they used protection or we'll be seeing this story on MAURY soon] - we know a lot about our neighbors through watching them and listening to them whether we want to or not. So what happens when you just casually peek out the window one day and realize that the neighbor across the street from you likes to murder people in his spare time? Would you just mind your business? Or would you do something about it? If you're the creators of DISTURBIA, you'd spend 100 minutes answering my questions.
High-schooler Kale Brecht (Shia LeBeouf) loses his father in a car crash after a fishing trip. A year passes and Kale is guilt-ridden over the death of his father. When his Spanish professor makes a stupid remake about his father, Kale socks him in the jaw and gets arrested for it. Since it's a first time offense and due over personal circumstances, Kale is only sentenced to 3 months house arrest. His mom (Carrie-Anne Moss) punishes Kale even further by denying him access to iTunes and X-Box Live, leaving Kale bored. After making a beautiful Twinkie tower, Kale decides to play voyeur and spy on his neighbors, leading to a crush on new neighborly hottie Ashley (Sarah Roemer). After hearing something about a serial killer on the news, Kale becomes suspicious of another neighbor, Robert Turner (David Morse), who seems to fit the description in more ways than one. With the help of his best friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), Ashley, and a bunch of gadgets, Kale decides to learn about Turner and solve the mystery once and for all without leaving his yard.
REVIEWI really liked DISTURBIA. Sure, it has elements of Alfred Hitchcock's classic film REAR WINDOW and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, but the film uses them very well to create a very entertaining PG-13 film. It's not original. It's not scary. It's not a film that's gonna change the world or anything. But it's a smart teen comedy/thriller that anyone of any age bracket will enjoy.
DISTURBIA did a good job making us care about the characters involved in the story of the film. The script was well-written, as each character were charming stereotypes of any other film similar to this one, creating relationships between the audience and these characters. Teen films rarely have a slow build that allows us to identify with the setting of the film and the situations created within this setting. But this one does and it enhances the film's enjoyment on a whole. The dialogue is credible. There are really genuinely funny moments that occur that are not far-fetched. The love angle between Kale and Ashley isn't lovey-dovey - it feels really natural as both LeBeouf and Roemer have very good chemistry with each other. And the entire slow build to set up Kale's plan to out Turner led to a very intense and chilling final act that took elements from the best slasher films and used them well. Who knew the room from SAW and the skeleton pit from POLTERGEIST would make an appearance in a 2007 teen thriller? Sure it's ripping off better material, but at least it does it with style and logic.
D.J. Caruso, who directed the lame TAKING LIVES, does a good job behind the camera. The man knows a thing about atmosphere and he uses it to full effect in the first act of the film where we follow Kale's journey from happy son to miserable house arrested criminal. We know who Kale is real quickly through his body language and facial expressions, setting up a hero we can all identify with. Caruso also used long takes for really important scenes, especially the love build-up for Kale and Ashley, sucking you right into their romance. And great use of tension as you know something bad was gonna happen, but we didn't really know when. He directed the slasher sequences extremely well, using the right amount of light and dark to give the final act a creepy feel. With a easy and comfortable pace, use of suspense through each situation and each character, and great direction of the digital portions of the film [I found them more entertaining than the overrated THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT], D.J. Caruso directs a very effective film that's easy to follow and understand. What more do you want?
However from watching DISTURBIA, you do get a sense of "Haven't I seen this film before?" It's obviously a teenage take on REAR WINDOW, with the electronic ankle bracelet replacing a plaster cast and a digital video camera replacing a simple still one. It's really hard not to watch this film and get a sense of its much better originator. I mean, REAR WINDOW and James Stewart is just so classic that it's hard to live up to that, ya know? At least the film held up nicely on its own terms. It's also very predictable and we're not really scared or surprised by anything that's gonna happen in the film. I mean obviously, we know who's gonna come out on top of this whole mess. And what was up with Carrie-Anne Moss disappearing for a long bit of time? She seemed so secondary to the story until the end. You'd think she'd be more concerned for Kale after his struggle to get over his father's death. And Ashley seemed like a plot device to move the film along as well, although she was one plot device I'd never get tired of watching over and over again. Just alot of "been there, done that" going on here.
Luckily for the film, the acting was excellent in the film. Especially from Shia LeBeouf, who really carried this film on his shoulders and gave a very human and three-dimensional performance. He's extremely charismatic and definitely has what it takes to be a future leading man. You sympathize with his character, Kale, from the beginning until the end - rooting for the guy the entire film. I felt bad for Kale when he was isolated due to the house arrest and felt paranoid just like him when he suspected Turner of being a serial killer. Just a very layered and realistic performance that proves that Mr. LeBeouf is a star.
Sarah Roemer, who was the blonde mean girl in THE GRUDGE 2, is smoking hot [especially in a wet bikini], but she can act too. She was charming, seductive, intelligent, tough - all the things I like in a woman and in an actress.
David Morse rocked it as the creepy Mr. Turner. Morse is always great playing the villain, and he was on his creepy-game in this film. Just a very imposing physical presence compared to Shia LeBeouf. Morse was very sinister and intimidating. Whoever casted this fine actor deserves a raise.
Carrie-Anne Moss did well in her short role as Kale's mom. Didn't really get a sense of who she was and I wish there was more of her in the film actually. She's a good actress that should have been allowed to do more. And Aaron Yoo was funny as Kale's best friend, Ronnie. He played a horn-dog slacker, who was forced into very uncomfortable situations due to Kale's obsession with Turner, very well. He's the kind of dude I usually hang around with, so he's cool with me. Just a fine cast that entertained the hell out of me.
THE FINAL HOWL
DISTURBIA is very fun suspense film. It offers some enjoyable performances and a smart script. It's no Hitchcock, but honestly, how many films are? What DISTURBIA does it does well and it's at least worth a highly recommended rental. Just don't watch this with binoculars. You might get yourself into more trouble than you were asking for. Not a great film, but damn fine good one.