J.D. Lafrance
Disturbia DVD Review


August 6, 2007

Director: D.J. Caruso,
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, David Morse, Sarah Roemer, Carrie-Anne Moss, Aaron Yoo, Viola Davis, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Matt Craven,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

With a starring role in the new Transformers film (2007) and a significant role in the upcoming Indiana Jones installment, Shia LaBeouf is being groomed as the next big thing. He made Disturbia (2007) just before these blockbusters and this little thriller was a surprise success at the box office as audiences gravitated to what critics rightly labeled Rear Window (1954) for the new Millennium.

After losing his father (Craven) in a horrible car accident and then punching out his Spanish teacher, Kale Brecht (LaBeouf) is confined to three months house arrest. After the thrill of playing video games and watching television wears off, boredom sets in and he maps out the boundaries of the ankle bracelet sensor he is forced to wear. He also starts to take an interest in Ashley (Roemer), the cute girl who just moved in next door with her family.

Late one night, he spots another one of other his neighbours, Robert Turner (Morse), getting out of his car with what looks like blood on it. Could he be responsible for the missing local girl and who may have killed several girls in Austin, Texas? Kale soon enlists his best friend (Yoo) from school and Ashley to investigate these deaths/disappearances and stake out the potentially dangerous neighbour. After his friends leave for the night, Kale sees what looks like Robert killing another woman (although, he doesn’t actually see the act) but is also spotted in the process. Of course, Robert ingratiates himself with Kale’s mother (Moss), getting friendly with her while the teenager, much to his chagrin, becomes the boy who cried wolf as he is unable to catch Robert in the act.

It’s hard to assess LaBeouf’s ability as an actor as he’s not given much to work with. The script is merely serviceable with thinly-sketched characters and clichéd dialogue. Veteran actor David Morse does the best job with the material as he oozes genial, soft-spoken menace in every scene. He wisely adheres to the less-is-more school of acting. Carrie-Anne Moss gets the thankless role of the mother who has to show her delinquent son some tough love while making friends with the next-door neighbour psycho. Her bland character makes one long for her sexy freedom fighter in The Matrix films.

Like David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986), Disturbia explores the dark underbelly that exists under the sunny facade of contemporary suburbia with LaBeouf as the amateur detective/voyeur, Morse as the evil psychopath and Sarah Roemer as the wholesome but not too wholesome girl-next-door. This film also evokes Brian De Palma’s Body Double (1984), a thriller about voyeurism and murder but unlike both of these films; it doesn’t have the content or the style to separate itself from your average thriller.

Director D.J. Caruso tries to keep things interesting visually but he’s kept in check by a PG-13 rating, essentially making Rear Window for teens. It’s a change from his usual adult fare (Taking Lives and Two for the Money) but not in a good way. Disturbia falls back on tired clichés that we’ve seen a million times before, like the bad guy who feels the need to explain himself instead of killing off the hero thereby buying just enough time for the protagonist to regain the advantage. That’s just sloppy, lazy screenwriting, folks. Ultimately, there’s nothing original about this thriller. It isn’t even all that much of an entertaining B-movie either. Wait for it to appear on T.V.

Special Features:

There is an audio commentary by director D.J. Caruso and actors Shia LaBeouf and Sarah Roemer. Caruso answers a call from his wife early on to take an order of stuff to pick up afterwards which kinda sets the tone for this track. I mean, c’mon! At least have the forethought to turn off your phone beforehand. It is this lack of commitment which, in turn, makes you not really care about what’s being said…which ain’t much in all truthfulness. Caruso repeatedly comments on how fine Roemer looks in a bikini and points out an actor who appears in most of his films for “two of his fans.” At one point, all the participants count how many times LaBeouf’s character says, “Shit” in a scene. Avoid at all costs.

Also included are four deleted scenes that flesh out Kale’s relationship with his mother and builds on the tension that exists between them. The other scene features a bit between Kale and his best friend that was rightly cut.

“The Making of Disturbia” is your pretty standard featurette as the cast and crew gush about one another. Caruso says that he wanted to make a John Cusack romantic comedy mixed with a thriller (?!). He also wanted to explore the nature of voyeurism with the advent of contemporary technology.

“Serial Pursuit Trivia Pop-Up Quiz” allows you to watch the film with a subtitled trivia track which is a nice added feature that helps distract you from what’s happening in the film.

There is brief “Outtakes” reel that features some goofy improvisation in the scene where Kale and his dad go fly fishing.

There is a music video for “Don’t Make Me Wait” by This World Fair that mixes footage of the band playing with clips from the movie.

Also included is a “Photo Gallery” with promotional stills and behind-the-scenes photographs.

Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 69%



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