For a high-concept thriller with an oh-so-clever name, Disturbia actually packs a real story into this teen fright fest.
Anyone who thought Disturbia could be the name of a family bonding movie could get a false sense of security in the opening scene. Kale (Shia LaBeouf) has a sweet fishing trip with his supportive dad, but an automobile accident on the way home costs Dad his life and turns Kale into a brooding, moping mess. A fight with his teacher lands him under house arrest for the summer with nothing to do but watch the neighbors from his window. A pretty new girl (Sarah Roemer) provides good scenery, but across the street, something more disturbing is going on. Neighbor Mr. Turner (David Morse) seems to have a lot in common with a serial killer recently on the news, but the ankle bracelet limits Kale's investigation. The ankle bracelet creates a false illusion of mobility but crossing the barrier only makes things harder. This may all sound familiar, but Disturbia gives a fresh take on voyeurism.
You might not expect a thriller like Disturbia to showcase great performances, but it is a great vehicle for Shia LaBeouf to show his talent. He plays every moment against the standard conventions. His sullen kid is totally sympathetic. He's not just looking for attention but really trying to cope with a great loss. You actually want him to hit the asshole teacher for presuming to know what's up. Then, while home, his love struck voyeur is not just some horny kid. He seems moved by the vision, not just the body. Then, lastly as an action hero, LaBeouf is truly desperate, not just trying to be a badass. The others fill more traditional roles. Morse does his now familiar bad guy thing and is far more interesting as the friendly neighbor than when he's just going bonkers. Aaron Yoo, as Kale's goofy sidekick, tries too hard to be wacky and clueless. Roemer, on the other hand, is a self-assured sexpot, though a little too wise to her seductive wiles. Carrie-Anne Moss does the tough-love mom thing well. In fact, she really hasn't repeated herself in her whole career. But ultimately, it's LaBeouf's show. With the whole movie seen through his perspective, he creates a well-rounded guide through the sometimes far-fetched adventure.
Director DJ Caruso (Two for the Money) knows all the classic tricks of suspense to keep audiences jumping and comes up with a few new ones of his own. The pacing is breakneck. To begin with, the auto accident is staged beautifully. It is a realistic portrayal of the dangers caused by speed demon SUVs, yet never gratuitous in communicating the horrific tragedy. Having the villain show up under innocuous pretenses also keeps the audience on their toes. But the house arrest hook is the best device of all. It can be a barrier as Kale stretches the limits of his mobility. Or it can be the edge of safety as Kale struggles to signal for help. Of course, modern technology to spy on the neighbors is also employed to full effect. The film's tight storytelling packs it all into 95 minutes with no down time. Fans of this genre won't be disappointed
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.