Review: Disturbia

There’s something comforting about an old fashioned thriller. You know, the kind where there are few surprises but just enough tension to keep you going until the end? Disturbia is just that kind of movie. At no point does it ever get ahead of its viewers, but then, I don’t think that was ever the concern in this one. This is a flick aimed squarely at the high school set who are looking for something with the kind of vibe which will let them grab their dates with reckless abandon. Disturbia delivers.

The plot is simple. Kale (played by the growing-up Shia LaBeouf) survives the car crash which kills his father and a year later is still having a hard time dealing with it. When he gets embarrassed by a teacher, Kale uses it as an excuse to “pop” the prof and ends up under house arrest, complete with ankle bracelet. So we now have a teenager who can’t leave the house. If his mother hadn’t taken away his X-Box and shut down his iTunes account the movie would have stopped right there. But she did. And now director D.J. Caruso has all he needs to lead us into a modern, teen-angst fueled version of Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

Kale grabs his binoculars and sets about spying on the neighborhood. He finds out about the affairs of all those living around him, both literal and figurative. And he sees the new girl next door, Ashley (stunning newcomerSarah Roemer). While he tries to start a romance with her and deal with his “geographically challenged” situation, he notes that Mr. Turner, the guy in the house across the street, is a little weird. Then Kale and his best friend Ronnie (the very funny Aaron Yoo) start to tie Turner together with a string of recent unsolved murders. His proof is flimsy at best, but that’s okay. We’re already along for the ride and besides, Turner is played by David Morse, who has recently cornered the market on creepy. We know from the get-go that Turner did it and frankly, by this point in the film, we’re not even sure what it is he did. We don’t care. Instead, we cheer as Kale, Ashley and Ronnie quickly morph into the Scooby Gang and away we go.

And where we go is for a fun ride. That is, as long as you check your expectations at the door. While writers Christopher B. Landon and Carl Ellsworth have a nice ear for the teenage voice, their plotting is simplistic at best. But if you’re at the age where you still giggle at the second syllable of Ol’ Alfred’s last name, then plot silliness takes a back seat to the fun of watching Ronnie sneak into Turner’s place and Kale trying desperately to get his house arrest monitor to go off to summon the cops. Maybe that’s the key, though. Maybe I’m too old to fully appreciate this film for what it truly is: a thriller for the homeroom set. I mean LaBeouf is charming as Kale and invests him with all the rashness and determination of a teenager who knows his next door neighbor is a killer, and Roemer is a Teen People mainstay waiting to happen.

By the end, when the killer finally reveals his true nature and the battle for survival takes place, Kale emerges as the hero we’ve known he could be since the beginning: he saves the people who need saving and he gets the girl. He doesn’t hesitate to act, no matter the personal cost. He does exactly what I would like to think I would have done when I was in high school. Except, maybe, for having Minnie Riperton’s “Loving You” on my iPod.

(Originally published at FirstShowing.net)

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