It's not Rear Window but it is good
It's widely acknowledged that Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window" is a suspense masterpiece and as such its little surprise that other director's have tried to emulate it. Brian De Palma used the voyeurism aspect in "Body Double", Jeff Bleckner attempted a remake with Christopher Reeve and in 2007 D.J. Caruso gave us "Disturbia" another movie which explores the voyeurism aspect of a person stuck in their home. And whilst not getting anywhere close to the suspenseful mastery of Hitchcock, "Disturbia" is actually a surprisingly good movie.
A year after being involved in the road accident that killed his father, Kale (Shia LaBeouf - The Greatest Game Ever Played) finds himself put under house-arrest when he loses it in class and knocks out his teacher. Forced to live within the close confines of his home and vicariously through his best friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), Kale soon takes to watching his neighbours especially the new family who have moved next door with their sexy daughter Ashley (Sarah Roemer - Hachi). But one night when he thinks he's seen his other neighbour Mr. Turner (David Morse - 16 Blocks) commit a murder he becomes obsessed in discovering the truth with the aid of Ronnie and Ashley.
It has to be said "Disturbia" starts off brilliantly introducing us to Kale and his father before we witness the shocking car crash, and I do mean shocking, which kills his father. It's a snappy, fast paced opening which if you were slumped in your chair gets you straight to the edge. And the following scene, one year on and in the classroom is equally good with Kale loosing it in class and knocking out his teacher. All of this is snappy, well paced and draws you immediately into what is happening.
And then "Disturbia" enters the realms of exploring voyeurism so expertly done in "Rear Window", with Kale put under house arrest with a leg tag to stop him going more than a few yards from his front door. It works quite well and is quite clever because whilst Kale resorts to watching the neighbours this different form of confinement gives the storyline different angles with scope for limited movement. And at the same time brings the voyeurism element up to date with the use of cameras, computers and cell phones in the spying on the suspected murderer, although that's an element which doesn't quite work all the time.
But whilst "Disturbia" impressively brings voyeurism into the new age it doesn't quite achieve that level of tension especially in the ending. I am sure many younger audiences will have enjoyed things as the storyline almost ventures into slasher territory with chase sequences around a dark house, baseball bats flying, knives getting wielded and so on. But for me it was all too mainstream and whilst entertaining was just another action fuelled chase montage.
What is strangely amusing is that "Disturbia" came out in the same year as "Transformers" both of which feature Shia LaBeouf and both of which see him playing similar characters. In "Disturbia" he plays Kale the typical teenager, slightly nervous around attractive girls and has an almost frenetic side to him, not too unlike that of Sam Witwicky in "Transformers". But then LaBeouf plays the character well and with the fact that you feel for Kale following his father's death you are automatically attracted to side with him.
But whilst LaBeouf maybe the main star it is the performance of David Morse as his neighbour and suspected murderer, Mr. Turner, which really gives the movie that right edge of being suspenseful. Morse whose sheer presence is dominating as he towers over the likes of Kale, Ronnie and Ashley finds the right level of creepiness to make Mr. Turner frightening without being over the top.
And as for the rest of the cast such as Sarah Roemer who plays Ashley and Aaron Yoo who plays best friend Ronnie, well frankly they're a much of a muchness as they play stereotypical characters which are not that well written.
What this all boils down to is that "Disturbia" is a surprisingly good movie, I say surprisingly because anyone who tries to explore voyeurism is going to struggle with instant comparisons to "Rear Window". But whilst "Disturbia" may not get the level of suspense the story screams out for it does get you to the edge of your seat, it is clever and also a little witty and whilst the mainstream ending maybe a little too horror like for me it certainly will appeal to younger audiences who need that sort of obvious action.