Those of you reading this review that have visited you local multiplex lately and seen Michael Bay's Transformers movie will be familiar with the name of Shia LaBeouf. He plays the lead role in that particular summer hit. What you might not know is that he also plays the lead role in another summer hit stateside, Disturbia. At the time of writing this review, Disturbia is yet to have it's theatrical run here in the UK, but it's due to begin on September 7th. My opinion is that the release was delayed so as not to confuse the younger viewer, whom Transformers was definitely aimed at.
Disturbia is also aimed at the teen audience, given a PG13 certificate when released in the US.
So, is this just another teen horror flick, or is it something a little more than that? In the interest of movie reviewing, I sat down with my 13 year old daughter on the hottest afternoon of the year so far to find out. The things we do for the love of the job, eh?
Disturbia stars Shia LaBeouf as Kale Brecht, a teenager who is sentenced to three months house arrest for punching his Spanish teacher after he makes a smarmy remark about Kale's father, who was killed in a road accident a year earlier involving a car that Kale was driving.
Driven by total boredom, Kale starts spying on his neighbours through a pair of binoculars. When a hot new girl, Ashley, played by Sarah Roemer from The Grudge 2, and who bears a striking resemblance to a young Kate Blanchette, moves in next door, things get a little easier on the eye. Kale is soon joined by his best friend Ronnie, played by Aaron Yoo, who is cutting his big screen teeth here.
Kale then hears on the news that the local police are looking for a suspected serial killer who is driving a blue Mustang with a dented wing. Later that evening, Kale is doing his nosy neighbour bit when his neighbour, Robert Turner, played by Shawshanks' David Morse, comes home in a blue 1960's Mustang with a dented wing...see where this is going?
Turner becomes the sole focus of Kale's spying and he grows more and more suspicious and he soon convinces Ronnie and Ashley that there is a lot more to Mr Turner than meets the eye. Ronnie breaks in to his house and finds a plastic bag with a body in it...but the body of what?
He gets trapped in Turners house and Kale breaks the conditions of his house arrest to rescue him. The police arrive and arrest Kale and Turner convinces them there is nothing wrong. However, things go distinctly pear shaped when Kale's mother, played by The Matrix's Carrie- Ann Moss (is she really old enough to have a teenage son?!?) goes to visit Turner to try and persuade him to drop the charges.
Directed by D.J Caruso, who's only other big screen outing is Two for The Money , but has plenty of small screen credits to his name, most notably .The Shield and
Smallville, Disturbia is an out and out remake of Hitchcock's Rear Window, but doesn't try and hide that fact. Nail biting tension is generated throughout by the use of suspense and clever camera work. Several times I found my young co watcher hiding behind a cushion...and because of this, Disturbia raises itself above the teen horror flick genre and places itself firmly in the thriller category.
It has everything that every respecting teenager today can relate to. iTunes, Xbox 360 live, clever use of mobile phones and multiple gadgets. At the same time, it also pays respect to the older members of the audience by giving nods to such films as The Blair Witch Project and The Shawshank Redemption, which of course starred David Morse as one of the prison guards.
Excellent performances by the leading trio of teens, and some very clever direction means that Disturbia moves along at a cracking pace. Occasionally, the cushion would disappear and my target audience member would be on the edge of her seat. As an older audience member, I was also gripped by the tension generated and often wanted to shout “he's behind you!”.
Shia LaBeouf has a bright future ahead of him in tinsel town. I often felt for his character. Having just lost his father in a car crash where he was driving the car, he obviously blames himself for the loss. A year isn't a long time in the healing process and, while I'll never condone the use of violence, I feel that he could have been afforded a little bit more sympathy from his Spanish teacher. Young Mr LaBeouf fits the leading man role perfectly and I, for one, am looking forward to his turn in Indy IV.
David Morse plays the villain perfectly. After his recent role in the TV show House as the menacing cop that just wants revenge, I really can't see Morse getting a good guy role again. He's big and menacing with a deep southern voice that fits the stereotypical bad guy perfectly. He certainly scared my co watcher half to death on more than one occasion.
When it was released in the US in June this year, Disturbia tripled it's $20m budget in the first weekend and stayed at number one in the US box office for three weeks. And it's easy to see why. It appeals to teens of all ages. At 104 minutes long, it detracts from the trait of most recent Hollywood releases of trying to break the record for the longest film ever. This is a welcome relief as there is really no padding to speak of which lets the story move on nicely.
I can thoroughly recommend this Blu-ray release to lovers of the thriller genre. There is also some comedy and teen romance thrown in for good measure. If you can wait for the theatrical release next month, take along a cushion to hide behind - you'll need it.
As a footnote to this movie review, there is also a HD DVD release of this movie which is identical to the Blu-ray release. Well done DreamWorks . Universal, take note.