Disturbia, D.J. Caruso’s overt homage to Hitchcock somehow manages to avoid the initial write-off of being either a tepid remake or terrible rip-off because, like a good episode of “The Simpsons,” it takes an old film archetype and runs with it instead of cooking up some new twist or angle. The plot points and outcome are never in any doubt, but Caruso never pretends that they were, he just has fun playing with someone else’s idea, and the results, though nothing to write home about, end up making a pretty decent thriller.
Kale (Shia LaBeouf) is a good boy gone bad: A tragic car accident kills his father and through guilt and despondency he becomes a sullen upstart. After clocking his Spanish teacher, Kale is sentenced to an entire summer of house arrest. At first, he deals with the anomie with the endless technological trappings available to the middle-class: Television, internet, video-games, but these diversions don’t last, and soon Kale is turning his attentions toward his neighbors, especially the newly-arrived hottie next door (Sarah Roemer).
But, of course, trouble arrives when another neighbor moves in - the creepy Mr. Tucker (David Morse), who the kids observe and believe may be a serial killer (Who, David Morse? Naw!). After this, events pretty much take care of themselves: Kale and his friends take up surveillance and eventually go so far as to sneak into the house to gather evidence, yada yada yada. Like I said, the story is laid out in the viewer’s mind before ever setting foot into the theater. Caruso doesn’t tweak the original idea much, because he knows that letting Rear Window unfold by itself will allow for enough thrills to sustain the film. And it may seem incongruous, but in spite of the unoriginality of the premise, Disturbia gets pretty exciting.
Caruso’s only real update is of modern technology, as Kale uses computers, cell phones, and camcorders to maximize his voyeurism - one episode with a digicam allows for a much more direct treatment of suspense than the original could’ve pulled off. But with an arc and story so enmeshed in the average theatergoers mind, Caruso has to rely on the speed and editing of the film to keep it from being boring and prosaic; to his credit, he does, but it requires a pretty big suspension of disbelief and expectation on the part of the audience.
So if you’re in the mood for a slight, forgettable thrill-ride that you’ll discard the moment your cortisol stops flowing, Disturbia will happily give it to you. It’s a hard film to laud in its own right, but it successfully deals out excitement and ingenuity that most faux-remake/sequels of its kind cannot. And unfortunately, that says a lot.
Phillip Stephens is the lead critic for Pajiba. He lives in Fayetteville, AR.
Disturbia / Phillip Stephens
Film Reviews | April 13, 2007 | Comments ()