Awful title aside, Disturbia’s reworking of Rear Window for the YouTube generation is pretty nifty, drenching its tale of paranoid surveillance in the type of modern techno-gadgetry—DV camcorders, camera phones, various Apple products—that’s helped transform privacy from a right into a luxury. Instead of a broken leg, Kale (Shia LaBeouf) is kept at home by a court-ordered ankle bracelet that’s the consequence of punching out a high school Spanish teacher who prodded him about his dead father. After Mom (Carrie-Anne Moss) unplugs her son’s Xbox Live and iTunes accounts, he turns to his window for entertainment, spying with binoculars on his neighbors’ mini-dramas and, in particular, a sexy new girl named Ashley (Sarah Roemer) who, when not arguing with her parents, enjoys bikinied dips in the pool. What ultimately commands his attention, however, is Mr. Turner (David Morse), a single man whose classic Ford Mustang matches the description of the vehicle used to abduct a missing woman, and whom Kale soon becomes convinced is a murderer. One word out of Turner’s mouth and questions regarding his guilt are quickly answered, as Morse’s chillingly cheery menace lets the cat out of the bag. Yet director D.J. Caruso nonetheless manages to concoct quite a bit of suspense from Kale, Ashley, and friend Ronnie’s (Aaron Yoo) simultaneously ecstatic and terrifying stakeout, which the sharp script characterizes as Kale and Ashley’s attempt to understand—and assert control over—a cruel world that seems without order. The film isn’t canny enough to implicate its audience as likeminded voyeurs, but Caruso keeps the sleuthing action swift and taut, and though LaBeouf can’t completely pull off a prolonged, grief-stricken stare at his dad’s corpse, he nails the sort of gracelessly covert glances that lustful boys sneak at foxy girls. Not-so-secret sexual energy permeates all of Disturbia, in which the suburbs are depicted as hotbeds not of carefully guarded grief and misery but, rather, pent-up horniness, an edgy, electric energy whose current—as with the film’s early tension—is only diffused by the third-act decision to transform this crafty thriller into a second-rate slasher flick set in a serial killer dream home.
The film’s sound design is unpretentious but full of very subtle nuances, all preserved with great attention to fidelity. The image is more problematic, with some unattractive edges around objects (and David Morse in one scene), artifacts clinging to especially colorful small objects, and some instances of combing (note the fishing poles in the first scene), but skin tones are accurate and color saturation is good, as is shadow delineation.
I only got halfway through the commentary track with D.J. Caruso and Shia LaBeouf and Sarah Roemer, so I can’t say if any of them get around to acknowledging the existence of Rear Window (or the great Simpsons episode where Bart thinks Ned Flanders killed his wife). This is a pretty paltry track, though Caruso does allow us to listen in on a few of his phone calls, answering his cell on at least two occasions, promising to purchase fax paper and some kind of tape for someone at one point, possibly his wife since he says "I love you" to them. Anyway.weird! Rounding out the disc are four deleted scenes, some outtakes, a rudimentary making-of featurette, a "serial pursuit" trivia pop-up quiz that spits out some rather perplexing tracks during the movie (apparently Spanish is spoken a lot in Mexico), a photo gallery, a music video for This World Fair’s "Don’t Make Me Wait," and previews for Stardust, Blades of Glory, and Next.
A solid DVD package for this disposable but nonetheless game attempt at giving Generation Y a Rear Window to call its own.