Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Review #1,258: 'Disturbia' (2007)

Back in 2007, Steven Spielberg pushed for Disturbia to be a vehicle for up-and-comer Shia LaBeouf, the kid he was so impressed with in Holes. He would also later cast the young star in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and no doubt played a part in hiring LaBeouf for the lead in Michael Bay's Transformers franchise. It hasn't quite gone to plan for the once cherub-faced and effortlessly charming actor, but his off-camera antics are perhaps more to blame than his film choices, as well as his frequently bizarre artistic endeavours. Anyway, LaBeouf is the best thing about Disturbia, demonstrating the sort of motor-mouthed confidence and assured screen presence Spielberg no doubt saw in him when he was still a child actor. Still, he cannot save Disturbia from turning into a conveyor belt of cliches and slasher tropes.

Traumatised by his father's death a year earlier, teenager Kale Brecht (LaBeouf) struggles to focus in school. When a classroom incident leaves his Spanish teacher with a swollen face, Kale is sentenced to three months house arrest wearing an ankle monitor that bleeps when he ventures further than 100 yards from his house. After a montage of video games, junk food and Red Bull, Kale's mother Julie (Carrie-Anne Moss) takes away all his television and music privileges. Boredom soon sets in, until he spots his beautiful new neighbour Ashley (Sarah Roemer) taking a dip in the pool. Using his binoculars, he starts to watch his neighbours intently, buoyed on by his comic-relief best friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo). Ashley soon joins in on their games, as their attention is turned to creepy neighbour Mr. Turner (David Morse), whose car and general behaviour matches that of a serial killer being reported in the local news.

Clearly aiming for Rear Window for the teenage crowd, Disturbia forgets to add that one key Hitchcockian ingredient: suspense. If you have seen the trailer for D.J. Caruso's film, then there's really no need to see the whole thing. A fast-paced beginning that introduces the three perfectly likeable teens zips by smoothly, and offers the odd genuine laugh. When the central serial killer story kicks into gear, the action descends into a series of loud bangs and quick edits, so all hope for anything resembling tension quickly flies out of the window. Almost as if film is afraid of offending its young target audience, the moments of 'horror' are frustratingly soft, and it fails to convince that any of its attractive young cast are ever in any real peril. I was left waiting for a twist, or even a moderate surprise, that never came, so I was forced to sit through a plot I had worked out within the first twenty minutes. If this is what passes for suspense nowadays, Hitchcock would turn in his massive grave.

Directed by: D.J. Caruso
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Sarah Roemer, Carrie-Anne Moss, David Morse, Aaron Yoo
Country: USA

Rating: **

Tom Gillespie

Disturbia (2007) on IMDb

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