Disturbia (2007)


Dir. DJ Caruso
Premiered April 4, 2007

I hesitated to watch this, mostly because it starred that dude I went to see with a bag on his head a couple of years ago. I shouldn’t have worried.

In Disturbia, high schooler Kale Brecht (Shia LaBoeuf) is involved in a horrible car accident that kills his father. When one of Kale’s teachers callously tries to guilt him with this tragedy, Kale assaults him and is soon after sentenced to house arrest. Bereft of the usual teenage shenanigans, he takes a keen interest in his neighbors, particularly Bob Turner (David Morse), the man in the house behind his. After the disappearance of a local girl, Brecht, best friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), and adventurous sexpot Ashley (Sarah Roemer) begin to suspect that Turner may be the culprit– an career serial killer who performs taxidermy on his victims.

If you haven’t already figured out, this movie is Rear Window for Generation Y– with a hint of The Burbs. Usually critics make such comparisons as a way to decry Hollywood’s lack of originality, but interestingly most meant it here as a compliment. Now, I get it; it’s close enough to be an homage, but different enough that it isn’t derivative. Whereas Rear Window constrained Jimmy Stewart’s character just to one window, Disturbia puts Kale, and by extension us, in three dimensions, bringing new life to the proceedings. And whereas Stewart and his compatriots watched anonymously, the characters of Disturbia aren’t hidden from their surroundings– including the man they fear most.

My issues with this film are mostly technical. For example, at one point in the film, Kale watches Ashley do yoga across the way and she seems to look right at him. “She can’t see me, it’s too dark in here,” he says to himself while the director has the room lit up for better visual effect. But that’s nitpicking. The performances are great. Kale may be a jerkwad teenager, but he’s smart, funny, and you feel for him; it’s the most charming Shia LeBoeuf has ever been. David Morse, meanwhile, is an outstandingly creepy villain. Altogether, Disturbia is a fun, well-constructed thriller and well worth a look.

Signs This Was Made in 2007
Ashley’s mom is introduced wearing a skin-tight velour sweatsuit. Somehow, the clothing choices in this movie scream “2000s” more than anything else I’ve covered so far; Ashley’s outfits for example are supposed to be sexy but in hindsight just look awkward and plain. But more than anything else, it’s the soundtrack that dates this film. Whereas a better director might have been more deliberate in his song choices, this is just a random selection of semi-hits from bands like System of a Down and Kings of Leon.

Additional Notes

  • From the dad-death scene, we transition to a Spanish class laughing at the fact that “quizás” (maybe) sounds kind of like “kiss ass.” This is only funny to people to have never heard the Spanish language in their everyday lives, in a film that allegedly takes place in California.

  • Kale’s mom (Carrie-Ann Moss) somehow shuts down his iTunes account, as if it’s a paid subscription service. This is presented as making it impossible to download new music. Oh, how I laugh.

  • I like that the love interest was a true-crime geek and the most enthusiastic of the group in their collective suspicion, as well as a non-pushover. They could’ve just made her a boring love interest, but they didn’t, and equally didn’t make a big deal about it.

  • Kale tries to do a Billy Crystal-When Harry Met Sally speech for Ashley, and it works, but considering he’s watching everyone in the neighborhood, she at least acknowledges the Dobler-Dahmer-ness of it, which the earliest example I know of where that’s addressed without it being the butt of a joke.

How Did It Do?
The praise for Disturbia was not at all off the mark. It’s cheesy at the start, but it absolutely nails what it’s trying to do, and the critics got on board, garnering the movie a 69% fresh rating on RT. No joke, this is one of the best movies of the year. It might not make the top ten when I’m done– hell, maybe not even the top 20– but that’s 2007 for you. It didn’t do that well at the box office; $117.7 million, the fiftieth-biggest movie of the year worldwide; but against a $20 million budget, it’s pretty cool that they got so much out of it, both in profits and production quality, and other filmmakers loved it, so it was guaranteed to have a good shelf life. Additionally, Shia LeBoeuf should thank God that this came out before Transformers, because it probably saved him from becoming a joke right off the bat.

The Rhianna song came afterward and is wholly unrelated.

Next Time: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters


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