Of the many things to admire about DISTURBIA, Shia LeBeouf not being the least among them, the way that the screenwriters (Christopher B. Landon and Carl Ellsworth) successfully re-imagined the Hitchcock classic, REAR WINDOW is pretty darned amazing. It’s the sunny suburbs rather than a noirsh big city. It’s a troubled kid instead of a bored adult. It’s a baby-faced psychopath instead of a burly one. Yet, the elements gel together in exactly the same way, making this a first-rate thriller in which nothing can, or should, be taken for granted.
The kid is Kale (LeBeouf) who is spending his summer under house arrest for decking a teacher. He’s a good boy, but a traffic accident that killed his father has left him with issues that he is not working out. Housebound after decking a teacher, he takes to watching the neighborhood, discovering a wealth of melodrama that is almost as diverting as the cable and video games his mother has revoked. The lissome new girl next door is even more compelling. The murderer next door, or is it must Kale’s boredom and unhealed trauma inventing something, raises the stakes on Kale’s surveillance, and may have repercussions beyond a new rap for being a peeping Tom.
DJ Caruso keeps things taut while still making this as much about the characters as it is about the menace. And in the special features section, several of the deleted scenes speak to that, expanding on the mother-son dynamic that is a palpable undercurrent of the film. The one titled “you are breaking my heart” really does. The commentary track is by Caruso, LeBoeuf and co-star Sarah Roemer and is notable for being the first track I can recall wherein one of the participants, Caruso, takes a call while recording the commentary, two actually (one from his wife and we is hear promising to bring home fax paper and tape, the other from his agent, who purportedly tries to lure LeBoeuf away from his own agent). There is the usual banter about what it was like filming, the creative uses of pudding on the ridiculous side, and a lovely bit of business that Caruso adds about smoking cigars in the set used as the office of Kale’s dead father. The scent, which wouldn’t register for the viewing audience, would, nonetheless, register for LeBoeuf as she stares forlornly into the darkened room.
The outtakes section rises above the usual hijinks with extended moments from a mostly ad-libbed sequence between LeBoeuf and Matt Craven as they stand knee-deep in a river pretending that they know how to fly fish. The other feature that rises above the usual features/extras is a trivia tracker that keeps track of bits of filming business and a count of, among other things, the number of skulls that appear in the film, and how often the ankle monitor on Kale’s turns from green to red. For more about both, there is a handy “making of” featurette. Just for fun, there’s a soulful music video (“Don’t Make Me Wait” by This World’s Fair) done with scenes from the film.
You might never want to listen to the commentary after the first time, but the nuanced performances turned in by LeBoeuf and Carrie-Anne Moss are worth revisting. DISTURBIA is primarily a thriller, but it’s also got so many other elements (comedy, romance, drama) that it really does take that second, maybe even third, look to appreciate the artistry involved in weaving them all together into such a satisfying whole.