- Directed by D.J. Caruso
- April 4, 2007 (Hollywood) / April 13, 2007 (United States)
Still reeling from the death of his father, a teenager assaults a teacher and is confined to house arrest. Having nothing to do he starts people watching and begins to see disturbing things in his neighborhood.
Millennials apparently needed their own version of Rear Window and they got it in this surprisingly good film starring Shia LaBeouf as Kale Brecht who is a 17-year-old with an ankle monitor. Kale is a rather typical kid for the era. Heck, he is your generally typical teenager.
Shia LaBeouf displayed some real nuance as the emotionally damaged Kale. He is angry and conflicted and hurt. Kale in the beginning is on a father/son fishing trip and bonding with his dad. An inconsiderate driver on the way home leads to an accident and his father is killed. He tries to go back to normal but the blame he has inside leads him to strike his Spanish teacher. Kale is punished with house arrest during summer when most kids would be having a great time. He goes a little wonky being stuck in the confines of his home with his world extending no further than his front yard. Who wouldn’t?
In a short period, they set the stage for the film and get the character to the state he is in that will propel the plot. Kale is stuck indoors within the first twenty or so minutes and then the movie really gets going.
With no ability to interact on a significant level with the outside world and his mother cutting off some of these forms of entertainment because he’s doing nothing, he begins to people watch and apparently gets quite good at it. Unlike in Rear Window his observations are spot on and not just fanciful speculation that is probably accurate.
During his home confinement Kale still manages to get a girlfriend in the form of neighbor girl Ashley Carlson (Sarah Roemer) who is new to the neighborhood. She performs the Grace Kelly role of charming girlfriend as well as being out doing some of the foot work for the housebound hero.
Kale first comes across her through his binoculars before he actually speaks to Ashley. And that is bad enough. Stalker! This even gets highlighted by Kale’s best friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo). Later on when Ashley realizes Kale has been watching her too they have a scene with him describing his observations of her. They sound rather sweet when he did all this in a very stalker like manor. It works but it should not.
Ronnie rounds out the observational trio as the comic relief and loyal sidekick. He is the comically horny teen character that today just would not fly today. The guy is a bit like something from a light 80s teen comedy.
David Morse is Kale’s neighbor Robert Turner who is the focus of his suspicion. Turner can be charming, but that charm can certainly turn sinister when he is threatened by the investigations of the neighborhood kids. Morse’s Turner has been killing women for unclear reasons and taking steps to slow decomposition which makes solving his crimes difficult.
I remember David Morse starting out on the ’82 to ’88 drama St. Elsewhere. I do not remember why his character left the show (I think he did anyway) but since the series Morse has made quite a career playing darker characters. At least that is what I tend to see him in. When was the last time you can recall him playing the chipper guy in the sweater? There are usually one or three screws loose with his characters and this is no different though you could see the character in the beginning as simply responding to a group of teenagers being bothersome. I guess that makes him an authentic psycho.
Carrie-Anne Moss is Kale’s mom Julie who because of Kale’s attitude following the death of his father is becoming more authoritarian in an effort to control her increasingly difficult child. She is far from inclined to believe her son when he starts slinging accusations though he has enough that most parents or even a DA might go “Hmmmm…”
I like that they did not make it immediately obvious Kale and the gang were right and they tossed out a few red herrings along the way. We knew he was right but it always helps a story like this to throw some stuff along the trail that makes us think “It could be that” even though there would no movie if he was not. We see plenty of questionable things, and these are things that can be explained away even if it is a bit of a stretch.
I do have a few issues with the finale of the film. One is that it takes place with a lot of thunder and lightning but no rain. That strikes me as very cliché. The second thing I have is that our villain has quite the complex under his house. I know very old buildings can have some rather unusual basements (I lived in one that was converted into an apartment building and that basement was weird) but there is what appears to be an operating room in a very sophisticated looking tunnel system winding underneath this adequately sized not that old style suburban property. Did Turner build this or was it always there? If he built it how did nobody ever notice? There is a great deal of dirt to move if he built it and not get noticed disposing it.
The finale, despite being a little cliché at points, works and it is very exciting. It is dark and claustrophobic and as our hero tries to find his mother, we get a very good look at the depravity and messed up mind of Turner. That water pit with the bodies is creepy and reminiscent of the climax of Poltergeist.
This movie has some good direction and a solid script brought to life by a predominately young cast. It stands on its own as a solid thriller. The marketing that I recall portrayed a very different product than we actually got here.
Disturbia may not be a cinematic classic but it is a good film that is not talked about nearly enough. I say watch it!