Hitchcockian – The state of being narratively similar to the works of film director Alfred Hitchcock. See: Disturbia (2007).
Truly, very few films have ever had the audacity to co-opt the works of Hitchcock in quite the same way that the new thriller Disturbia does. It’s pretty much a remake of Rear Window if Jimmy Stewart were a delinquent under house arrest as opposed to a man bound to a wheel chair with a broken leg. More surprising though, is the fact that Disturbia works as a suspenseful film when clearly the filmmakers could have phoned this in and it still would have had enough energy to give the target audience a thrill or two.
Disturbia is of course a reference to the new modern Hell on Earth setting: the suburbs. We meet Kale (Shia LeBeouf) and his dad on a fishing trip, which ends in a tragic car crash that kills the dad and leaves Kale an angry and embittered young man. So angry in fact that Kale punches out his Spanish teacher, which lands him the previously mentioned house arrest sentence for a duration of three-months. Kale’s mom (Carrie Anne Moss), at her wits’ end with her disobedient son, tosses his X-Box, cancels his i-Tunes pass and cuts the chord on his TV. So Kale compensates by watching his neighbours. Life as voyeur has a price though, as Kale notices that the quiet Mr. Turner (David Morse) shares a number of similarities with a serial killer on the loose in the area. Together with his best friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) and the new hot girl from next door (Sarah Roemer), Kale attempts to unlock the mysteries from within a limiting 100-foot radius.
Director D.J. Caruso does a commendable job of taking such a static and obvious concept and inserting the jumps and scares in such a way that actual tension is created during the film’s fateful climax. Caruso also lets things gently trail along and build-up and even though we fundamentally know otherwise, he almost makes you think that Turner’s suspicious behaviour is all in Kale’s head. The first half is almost exclusively dedicated to Kale’s relationship with his Mom and the new girl next door. Psycho, old Mr. Turner is but an after thought in the background of the sick menagerie of characters in the Disturbia neighbourhood, including a group of boys from next door who Kale observes watching porn when their mom’s not looking.
One can’t help but acknowledge though that the entire underline premise is on borrowed ground. No one believes Kale even as the evidence starts piling up because he’s the disturbed neighbour boy under house arrest. Primary amongst Kale’s detractors is the cop/cousin of Kale’s Spanish teacher, who’s taking the sucker punch the same way that Don Corleone takes a hit on a member of the family: personally. Also, Turner turns out to be the same kind of omnipresent killer typical of any movie with a seemingly indestructible killer monsters that seems to be everywhere at once. He also comes complete with his own house of horrors, which seemingly has gone unnoticed by people for years.
Still though, suspensions of disbelief are typically not a problem for Disturbia’s intended audience and there’s more then enough artistry in the execution of the film as to keep the cynical semi-occupied. I will note however, that there were several scenes in the middle of the film where the boom mic was visible, but that may have been a projection problem.