Who's in It:
Shia LaBeouf, Sarah Roemer, Carrie-Anne Moss, David Morse, Aaron Yoo, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Viola Davis
The Basics: A kid under house arrest for the entire summer vacation spies on his neighbors and discovers that one of them is a serial killer. High-tech surveillance, crazy hidden-panel doorways leading to torture chambers in the basement and, worst of all, crappy pop-punk soundtrack songs ensue. Best of all, it's a teen-thriller-as-lame-commentary-on-upper-middle-class domestic furnishings, the kind where awful kids sit around complaining about how bored they are in well-appointed surroundings flanked by backyard pools. You find yourself wishing that one of them, instead of just lots of anonymous women, would be the object of the killer's gaze.
What's the Deal? I know I just spent a whole column comparing this movie unfavorably to the classic Rear Window, which Disturbia is a total, slavish yet somehow, uncredited remake of. But that doesn't mean I didn't have a lot of fun. I even sat in my favorite "escape hatch" seat in the screening room, the one nearest the exit, in case the boiling rage inside me made it impossible to resist walking out during the last third. But I never became annoyed by it. It's dumbly predictable from start to finish, but you knew that already. Even the ad campaign and trailer tells you that, yes, the guy next door is a murderer and that, yes, LaBeouf busts him. But along the way, you get just enough caffeinated jolts and creepy suspense to make you feel like you didn't just waste your time. Even though you kind of did.
Things You'll Learn While Watching It:
1. Parents just don't understand and, therefore, by extension, kids are smarter than adults. It's a lesson we've already learned from Rebel Without a Cause and The Breakfast Club, but it always bears repeating.
2. Skinny people have box after box of Twinkies in their houses, stored there for the sole purpose of being glued together by a frustrated teen into a kooky tower of offhanded product placement.
3. Handsome single male neighbors are always homicidal maniacs.
My Favorite Thing, and This Is a Spoiler, But Not Much of One: I really like how eclectic the killer's methods are here. In his nicely maintained home, he has separate storage spaces for victims in various stages of decomposition, some that seem grimy like a sewer and some that are OCD sterile and floor-lickingly clean. It's like he has many moods of murder and a different room for each type of killing project he's working on.
Typecast-O-Meter Has Now Officially Become Overburdened, Blown Multiple Gaskets and Has Been Sent Off for Repairs: Thank you, David Morse, for busting it. You are the most ironic bad guy ever, with your twinkly blue eyes, graying blond hair and intractably babyish face, one that persists in being adorable, even in your mid fifties. You began your career playing sweet-natured Mr. Rights and then, somewhere around, I don't know, maybe The Long Kiss Goodnight or possibly sooner even, you started getting cast as "Wow, he's the villain?" Having said all that, you're a fun homicidal maniac, and I got no beef with your career at all, even if you did just break my imaginary machine.