Hitchcock’s Rear Window remade, remarketed (it’s y’know, for kids) and relocated to executive producer Steven Spielberg’s beloved suburbia? Now that’s disturbing. The moment events get under way with a literal bang, however, DJ Caruso’s teen thriller goes from disturbing, what-the-hell-are-you- playing-at? to disturbing, creepy – revealing itself to be a smart, playful, engagingly modern take on Hitch’s peeping tom classic.
Instead of Jimmy Stewart in plastercast and wheelchair we have Shia LaBeouf in electronic ankle tag, confined to house arrest after punching out his Spanish teacher. Mom Carrie Anne-Moss makes matters worse by cutting the TV cord as punishment for being a moody, mopey shit. “Find constructive things to do to keep yourself busy,” she grumbles. She doesn’t, of course, mean spying on the hottie next door (Sarah Roemer, who is bland but not-quite-sobland as LaBeouf’s arm-prop in Transformers, Megan Fox). And she certainly doesn’t mean turning binoculars, camcorder and assorted techno-paraphernalia on sinister neighbour David Morse, who Shia fancies as a serial killer.
Disturbia is no Rear Window. It’s not in the top class of teen flicks, either, coming up short of Heathers, Clueless, Scream, Donnie Darko, Brick... an entire batch of pubescent big-brainers. But it is slick, savvy and suspenseful, scoring straight ‘A’s for its tidy nods to its source material (itchy leg, rat-like pooch, exercising neighbour, Herrmann-esque strings), rapid pacing, escalating tension, sharp remarks (“This is reality without the TV…”) and two absorbing leads. LaBeouf, present in every frame, often by himself, is a hugely likeable host, again displaying his already signature combo of street and geek. Morse, meanwhile, puts the “er…” into disturbing (and, indeed, Disturbia), with his slicked-back whitening hair and dangling sleeper suggesting that possibly, perhaps, something’s... not... quite... right. Or maybe it is. As one character says, “The world is in a heightened state of paranoia.” State of the world or state of mind, it’s a mood that Disturbia captures in its sights, large and looming.
The teen support cast are vacuous and director DJ Caruso strays a little too far into Grand Guignol territory for the over-extended climax, but Disturbia's otherwise bang on the money: $80m at the US box-office was no fluke.