You’ve got to cut Shia LaBeouf a little hit of slack. Yes, he has been in some pretty bad roles (Charlie’s Angels 2, Dumb and Dumberer, etc) where he has placated the former Disney channel star clich©. But he does work hard and every once in a while he comes across a role that makes you go, “Whoa! Is this the same kid that I saw in Holes?”
In Disturbia, LaBeouf plays Kale, a once well-behaved young man who turns into a deviant after the tragic death of his father. This deviance leads him to punching his high school Spanish teacher and getting house arrest for the entire summer. While he is locked away in his upscale suburbanite home with plenty of amenities (X-Box, Cable TV, iTunes… I wish I had punishments like that back when I used to go around punching my teachers in the face), he discovers that there are plenty of interesting things happening right outside his windows. One in particular is Ashley (Sarah Roemer), the smoking hot girl who has just moved from the big city to the house next door. Coincidentally her room is within eyeshot of Kale’s window, something that comes in handy for both Kale and the red-blooded males in the audience.
Eventually Kale gets caught starring by Ashley and they become friends, go figure. Together along with Kale’s comedically relieving friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), they spy on everyone in the neighborhood, only to find that one neighbor has a big of a creepy side. That neighbor is Mr. Turner, played by David Morse, a solemn guy who likes to invite lovely women into his home and, in Kale’s mind, kill them. As Kale, Ashley and Ronnie investigate Mr. Turner’s situation they realize that maybe they are right about him, a fact that proves to be quite dangerous.
The film is a play on Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but it is not being marketed to anyone who has ever seen Rear Window. While director D.J. Caruso (The Salton Sea) has obviously taken elements from Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Disturbia is hardly a remake. It is a polished, modernized update to the classic thriller formula geared for the 18-25 generation next-ers out there; the ones who will appreciate references to iTunes and X-Box Live. And in that respect, the film works really well.
Shia LaBeouf delivers a very solid performance in a pretty straightforward role. He holds back on the “Even Stevens” goofiness just enough to keep us convinced that Kale could be a troubled young man, while still adding a little humor to the character. You can tell that he has come a long way since Monkey Business. Sarah Roemer is another delightful surprise. Besides the fact that she is all the eye candy a movie like this could need, she holds her own on screen with LaBeouf. Together they put together a side story about these two kids and their budding relationship that doesn’t detract from the rest of the film.
In fact, there is a lot else going on in this one besides the scary parts. To some it may feel like the film is starting too slow, but in reality that is just the director’s craftiness, building tension for the big finish. It is tension that could not be so well built had it not been for David Morse, who is as haunting a thriller villain as we have seen in quite a while.
In the end, while the film may take a while to get going, it is all for good reason. D.J. Caruso has combined a very solid cast with a distinct appreciation of horror classics to create the best thriller of 2007 thus far. Will it stand the test of time like Hitchcock’s films? I doubt it. Is it worth going to see? If you are looking for a good scare and a satisfying movie going experience, then I’d say so.