Disturbia
R1 - America - DreamWorks Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (10th August 2007).
The Film

"Disturbia" has been in the pipeline for many years, the original script was written in the early 90's, however it was never made, and the option was simply run-out. In 2004 the script was given new life when Dreamworks picked it up and turned it around into production. The film finally saw screen time as it opened in 2007 to the number 1 box office position, it held the number 1 spot for two weeks. The film became a huge success for Dreamworks raking in around $95 million (the film only cost $20 million to make), allegedly there are talks of a sequel (although none of the cast and director have signed or confirmed this).
The film is basically an unofficial remake of Alfred Hitchcock's classic "Rear Window" (1954), I say 'unofficial' because nowhere in this film's credits does it list it's adapted from "Rear Window" or Cornell Woolrich's short story. This comes as somewhat of a surprise because the plot similarities are evident yet "Disturbia" is credited as being a story by Christopher B. Landon. In any case this film tells the story of Kale (Shia LeBeouf), a teen who recently lost his father in a terrible car accident. Kale is under house arrest for assaulting his Spanish teacher in a moment of rage and frustration. The electronic monitoring system attached to his ankle will only allow him to venture 100 feet away from the transponder. If he breaches the 100 foot mark, a red light switches on alerting authorities and he has 10 seconds to get back into the green zone. To make matters worse his mother Julie (Carrie-Anne Moss) cancels both his Xbox live and iTunes, virtually cut off he seeks entertainment by spying on his neighbors who includes his newest next door neighbors and their attractive daughter Ashley (Sarah Roemer). Eventually Ashley joins in on the spaying fun with Kale's friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) and discovers that one of their neighbors, Mr. Turner (David Morse) may in fact be a murderer.
I liked this film, granted there are some flaws but on the whole I felt that it was a rather effective thriller, even though it's basically the teenage son of "Rear Window". What made it appealing was that the script allows the characters to develop and the story to unfold; it doesn't fall into the same trap that a lot of recent thrillers fall into - rushing the plot in order to get to the 'scare'. In fact it's almost an hour into the film before the 'murder' elements featuring the Mr. Turner character start to make an impact. Director D.J. Caruso spends the necessary time allowing the characters to develop and also nicely balances comedy with the thriller elements.
The characters are fully realized and this mainly due to the people playing them, Lebeouf makes Kale very accessible and allows the audience to connect with his plight, additionally Shia delivers a rather excellent performance handling the lighter moments with class but then delivering the goods for the film's more intense scenes. His range is brilliant for such a young actor; I can see why Steven Spielberg was so impressed with this kid to cast him in both "Transformers" (2007) and the currently filming fourth "Indiana Jones" (2008) film. He's come a long way from that very annoying performance he gave in "Constantine" (2005)
Furthermore David Morse plays the menacing villain, by day he's a shy and secretive introverted man that spends time taking care of his garden, but by night he's a serial killer that goes after attractive women. Morse is very much a method actor and during the production he refused to speak to Shia LaBeouf or any of the other teen actors. As a result their screen time together is nail-biting at best. He makes such an impact on screen it's hard to think that he might actually be a normal lovely person in real life.
The film does have its flaws, Firstly it's a 'been there done that' story, but then again it's quite hard upstaging the master that is Hitchcock so any attempt will likely result in some holes being poked by film buffs. There are a few moments that break the 'suspension of disbelief' barrier in particular a sequence where Kale gets all "MacGyver" on a bunch of electronics. It's also geared towards the teen audience, the PG-13 rating doesn't allow the film to push the boundaries which I tough was a little limiting at times and the filmmakers had to resort to a few cheap scares thrown in. It's very much a film for the 'MTV generation' with it's cool music and hot young stars, but to be honest other than the fact Sarah Roemer is wonderful to look at she doesn't really add much to the film, she's just another in a line of 'generic hot girl at first, but then we realize she's more than that and is actually different from the rest'.
"Disturbia" surprised me, for a film that's not all that original in its concept it featured some well executed scripting and some fine performance, both reasons enough to at least give it a rental.

Video

Presented in a widescreen ratio of 1:78:1 this anamorphic widescreen effort isn't a top notch effort, but it certainly is a good one. The image is generally sharp, although some of the more mid-afternoon scenes with warn sun obscures sharpness and leans towards the soft side, the same problem occurs in dark and dimly lit scenes with some detail being lost. Aside from that I spotted no edge-enhancement, compression artefacts and film grain and noise was not present. Colors are rendered well, with skin tones appearing natural and blacks remaining bold and deep.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX as well as a French Dolby Digital 5.1 EX surround track along with a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 EX surround track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English track which was a solid mix that displays excellent range from the softer more ambient atmospheric sounds that ground you in the neighborhood to the more pulse pounding aggressive sounds mixed during the more extreme sequences of the film. Dialogue is clear and distortion free with the film's score adding to the overall experience. As far as 5.1 EX tracks go it won't blow the roof off but its does a decent job of presenting this film.
Optional subtitles are included in English, French and Spanish.

Extras

A few extras are include in this package such as an audio commentary, a trivia track, a featurette, some deleted scenes, outtakes, a music video, photo gallery, the film's theatrical trailer plus a collection of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

The extras open up with a feature-length audio commentary by the film's director D.J. Caruso and cast members Shia LaBeouf and Sarah Roemer. This track is mainly screen-specific and in each scene the participants comment on the location or sets, when it shot during the film's schedule, working within the confines of the house, they also talk about the staging of the scenes and rehearsing some of the more intense sequences that involve stunts or dangerous acts. The director talks admiringly about his cast and also takes a couple of cell phone calls during the track. Some of the more interesting aspects of the track include the comments on how they chose to play certain scenes out and the effectiveness of the editing that builds tension, as well as character motivations and getting into character. Caruso offers up a lot of behind-the-scenes trivia that makes this a decent track to listen to; Lebeouf comes across as a rather funny unpretentious person that also adds his two cents into the track while Roemer only chimes in occasionally. It's a very enjoyable, highly accessible track that would appeal to most fans of the film, it's worth listening to.

The film includes an interactive feature entitled "Serial Pursuit" a pop-up trivia track, that provides information on the film and various other things like information on fly-fishing, some interesting trivia is included but this feature should only be viewed if you're really bored and there's nothing else to do.

The "Making of Disturbia" featurette runs for 14 minutes 51 seconds and is the standard EPK clip that covers the basics in the film's story, production and cast. It includes the prerequisite interviews with key cast and crew edited with some behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the film. Boring.

A series of 4 deleted scenes is next and can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' function the scenes included are:

- "You Wanna Talk?" runs for 1 minute 17 seconds, Julie tries to get through to her son and suggests Kale talks to a therapist.
- "I Forbid It" runs for 44 seconds, Kale expresses his disapproval in his mother seeing Mr. Turner.
- "Operation Stupid" runs for 54 seconds, Kale is adamant in continuing the investigation on Mr. Turner but Ronnie thinks it's a bad idea.
- "You're Breaking My Heart" runs for 1 minute 33 seconds, Julie has a heart to heart talk with her son about the way things used to be.

The disc includes an outtakes reel which runs for 1 minute 27 second ad includes some funny moments from the shooting of a few scenes but mainly includes a few moments from the film's opening fly-fishing scene.

A music video follows entitled "Don't Make Me Wait" performed by the band This World Fair and runs for 4 minutes 3 seconds, this rock video includes some scenes from the film in what is otherwise a fairy standard slip.

A photo gallery is included and features 47 images, these images include publicity photos, production stills and the films poster.

Also included is the film's effective theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 33 seconds.

Rounding out the film's extras are a series of bonus trailers for:

- "Stardust" which runs for 2 minutes 26 seconds.
- "Blades of Glory" which runs for 2 minutes 22 seconds.
- "Next" which runs for 2 minutes 28 seconds.
- "Beneath" which runs for 1 minute 25 seconds.
- "Super Sweet 16: The Movie" which runs for 1 minute 59 seconds.
- "She's the Man" which runs for 2 minutes 31 seconds.

Overall

The Film: B Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: B Overall: B+

 


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