• 2007-09-19
  • TIM Ochser

FEAR THY NEIGHBOR: "Disturbia" is a psychological thriller in the best – and spookiest – tradition of Hitchcock.

Loosely based on Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 classic "Rear Window," "Disturbia" is actually a surprisingly decent thriller despite its silly name. The first half hour is particularly impressive as it creates the same stuck-at-home scenario that turned James Stewart into such an eager voyeur in "Rear Window."
Kale (Shia LaBeouf) is a sharp-witted high school student enjoying a fishing trip with his father. On the drive home their car overturns in an accident and his father is killed when a second car smashes into them.
A year later and Kale is sitting in class looking withdrawn and sullen. When a teacher makes a disrepectful remark about his father, Kale punches him in the face and is placed under house arrest and tagged with a tracking device that alerts the police if he ventures beyond the confines of his yard. 

The film spends a generous amount of time showing us just how bored Kale is and the desperate measures he resorts to to keep himself amused. He spends a lot of his time spying through binoculars on his beautiful new neighbor Ashley (Sarah Roemer) who attends the same high school as him.
When he's not spying on her, he starts to grow suspicious that another neighbor is responsible for the disappearances of several local women after noticing some weird nocturnal comings and goings from his house across the street.

Kale gradually befriends Ashley and together they become so convinced that their neighbor is a serial killer that they start breaking into his car and house to look for incriminating evidence.
Like "Rear Window," "Disturbia" cleverly plays on our voyeuristic nature, so that we the audience are complicit with the main characters' almost perverse determination to find a horror story in what ostensibly looks like just a dull suburban street.
The tension is expertly handled right up until the end and there are some sharp moments of dialogue that raise "Disturbia" well above the average thriller. Kale not only has to cope with the fact that no one believes his neighbor is a pyschotic serial killer, but is constantly worried that he'll lose Ashley to the appropriate high school clique befitting someone of her appearance.

"Disturbia" is probably the most enjoyable thriller I've seen this year for the wry way it draws on a broad range of urban fears,  the very least of which is that the man next door might be a serial killer.

Now showing in Estonia. Opens in Latvia Sep. 21.

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