Disturbia Review

The film offers weren't coming in as they once were. To be fair, they weren't ever what one might describe as arriving in their hundreds but when Christopher Reeve injured his back and was forced to spend the rest of his short life in a wheelchair, his playing the part of Jason Kemp in Rear Window seemed to be a fait accompli. But at least it was a remake, even to Reeve fighting off his assailant with the flashes from his camera, being honest enough to acknowledge its origins by keeping the same title.

To all intents and purposes, Disturbia is also a remake of Rear Window only instead of having a character sitting in a wheelchair for the most part, it has its lead under house arrest after punching out his Spanish teacher at school. Under threat of prison, Kale Brecht (Shia LaBeouf), sits in his bedroom looking out of the window, unable to go beyond the borders of his mother's garden. The electronic tag on his leg beeps occasionally to remind him of his status when he strays too close to the hedges at his edge. Through his binoculars he watches affairs, stay-at-home moms returning home after their workouts at the gym and something suspicious going on at the house of his neighbour, Robert Turner (David Morse). One night, Turner drives into his garage with a dent in his 1967 Ford Mustang, one that matches the car driven by a Texan serial killer who remains at large!

There's something rotten within Disturbia, though not always the obvious. The play on words that informs the title is faintly upsetting, being the sort of thing that a lonely fifteen-year-old girl feeling miserable in a middle-class suburban home might come up with in a particularly uninspired moment. There's Carrie-Anne Moss playing the rather mumsy Julie Brecht not very many years after she gave the leather'n'vinyl crowd something to feel good about in The Matrix. There's a sign that I'm getting old right there.

There's Moss disconnecting Kale's XBox Live and iTunes subscriptions, which are about all that get him through the day. On the contrary, the parents of a teenage boy would not only keep both but would happily pipe pornography into their Kleenex-filled bedroom every minute of every day just to avoid tripping over their gangling limbs and bad attitude. And there's Disturbia being a rewrite of Rear Window, which couldn't find a single actor who would want to remain in a wheelchair for the entirety of the film. Instead, it prefers to have them assault their teacher than be seen cuddling up to girl-next-door Sarah Roemer over the nuts and bolts of their means of getting around, particularly when much of their neighbour-gazing is at a bikini-d Roemer in her pool.

There's less tension in Disturbia than that which comes while waiting for a tingling nose to either turn to a sneeze or to simply fade away. Morse does pretty much everything that a serial killer ought to. Undeterred by the sight of LaBeouf's huge binoculars peeking out from between the slats on his blinds, Morse stays up all night, goes shopping for shovels and other garden implements useful for serial killing and drags bin bags across his driveway. He all but wears the preserved skin of his victims and goes dancing across his rooftop for the benefit of LaBeouf. With the aid of Roemer and his friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), LaBeouf goes hunting for Morse's victims, leading his friends onwards via their mobile phones and rather more knowledge of camcorders, wireless video feeds and security codes than is common in one still in high school. Particularly when the lack of an iTunes subscription apparently prevents him from downloading any music off the Internet. Perhaps there is a warning from the entertainment industry in that.

Eventually, the viewer sits waiting to see which way Disturbia will go, choosing to reveal its hero as paranoid and under the spell of an active imagination or as a one who's successfully rumbled a suburban serial killer. Unfortunately, the film chooses to make a lurch out of its Rear Window-inspired suspense in favour of Morse clearly having enough of someone staring at him day and night and coming calling with the contents of a hardware store in his arms, finding just enough to ring the bell of LaBeouf's home before making good use of the shovels, baseball bats and pitchforks that he's brought with him. Electronic tag be damned as Disturbia works its way towards an ending in a secret surgical theatre that Morse, with the ingenuity that is part and parcel of the movie serial killer, has built in his home.

The film tries for red herrings but director DJ 'Not David' Caruso might has well stick his head in the frame and shout, "Oh lookee!" for all the effect they have. Even the police, who, throughout the film, have arrived mere seconds after LaBeouf has stepped onto the pavement outside his home are waylaid by a double-burger-and-fries moment. It's all that their patrol car suddenly refuses to turn over just as Morse makes good on them with the hedge trimmer.

Actually, there is a lack of hedge trimmers, lawn mowers or anything else with a sufficient amount of power to leave much of a trail of blood, which isn't unexpected when dealing with a film that was cut to get a PG-13 in the US (15 in the UK). Morse does look a bit threatening when carrying a pair of garden shears but that's really about it. Without much tension, there's very little else to sell the film. It might do for an audience unschooled in thrillers, perhaps an audience of early-teens on a sleepover, or one looking for an audience to doze off to but it's no Halloween, Prom Night and certainly no Rear Window.


Presented in 1.85:1, Disturbia, most likely from it taking place in suburbia and starring Shia LaBeouf, looks a little like the rather slow middle section of Transformers where the Autobot hide while LaBeouf searches for his grandfather's spectacles only without the giant robots but with David Morse carrying a zip-locked binbag. Oh, and without the lens flare, shades of sunset and glossy sheen that Michael Bay brings to absolutely everything he has ever done. So not really much like Transformers, then.

The actual DVD presentation is often pretty good. The early scenes with Kale's father are as sharp, bright and colourful as they need to be for their setting in the wilderness but while Disturbia retains that sharpness later in the film, it's no longer quite so colourful as the action retreats into Kale's bedroom, a street lit suburbia and David Morse's favourite hardware store. By the time of the finale, which is set in a basement that Norman Bates would consider a little unpleasant, the viewer will be straining to pick out anything in the darkness. At this point, the DVD takes something of a tumble, having neither the clarity nor the brightness to really appreciate what it is that's going on and, for the most part, this viewer simply followed the screaming and the thwacks of shovel against head.

Speaking of which, though, the DD5.1 Surround track is of a very good standard. It has been very well designed such that there's plenty of use of the rear channels and of the subwoofer with lots of space given to the various sound effects, dialogue and distant screaming. The rear speakers are well-used for ambient sounds and this makes for a very good listen, particularly as it does a much better job than the visuals of drawing the viewer into the action amidst very ordinary surroundings. And it picks up a bonus point for good use of Minnie Ripperton's Loving You.


The main extra is a Commentary with Shia LaBeouf, Sarah Roemer and director DJ Caruso. Other than occasionally munching on the spread that has been laid out before them, they offer a track on which there are few dull moments but which very little is memorable. Caruso even takes a couple of mobile phone calls during the commentary, one of which appears to come from his wife, but very many fewer than I had expected a Hollywood director to receive over ninety minutes. Perhaps he's just not that popular or maybe advance word on Disturbia wasn't so great. The Making Of Disturbia (14m16s), at less than fifteen minutes, this only skims the surface of the production but still manages to get a lot from LaBeouf and Caruso but also from David Morse and Carrie-Anne Moss.

Four Deleted Scenes (3m58s) present a little more of Kale's home life and with the film being starved of the mother-son relationship between Carrie-Anne Moss and Shia LaBeouf, these could have done with being cut back into the film. The Outtakes (1m23s) are the usual mix of on-the-set messing about and bleeped-out swearing while the DVD also includes a Trailer (2m20s) and a Music Video (3m54s) for This World Fair's Don't Make Me Wait. As well as a Photo Gallery, there is also a Trivia Pop-Up Track that can be enabled to run through the film with such bits of nonsense as how bunk beds are usually used in places with limited floor space (ships, garrisons and dormitories), how 1st March is National Peanut Butter Lover's Day, that arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one's mouth and how many XBox 360's were sold to 2006.

5 out of 10
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