Writer: Elizabeth TanWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Rear Window", "The Conversation", "The Bourne Identity"
It is hard not to compare "Disturbia" to Hitchcock's "Rear Window". Although it is inspired by the classic movie and similar in its storyline, there are also notable differences in the movies' execution.
Screenwriters Christopher B. Landon and Carl Ellsworth's suburban, teenage MTV remake of the film has an interesting twist and a modern take on it. Besides the binoculars that Kale uses, the digital cameras and other technological products frequently used by the characters enhance the voyeuristic aspect of the film. A strong motif of surveillance is planted in the audience's mind and leads one to believe that those spied-on can also spy on the other and vice versa. It is more of a psychological drama than a typical horror flick.
Opening with a shot of the countryside, one is immediately brought into the world of Kale and his likable personality. We identify with him from the beginning and look at the movie through his point of view - a very crucial factor as everything that unfolds is essentially due to Kale's 'eye' and spying on his neighbours.
The filmmakers managed to evoke a sense of claustrophobia, frustration (for Kale as he is stuck at home), and a sense of awkwardness, especially with Kale spying on Ashley. However, the real violence only happens during the last 15 minutes of the show. The tension accumulates in too short a time and then fizzles out with an expected 'happy ending'.
This can be attributed to the predictable plot and characterisation. The goofy best friend, the tough but tender mother, the hot neighbour who is barely clad in a bikini, the spooky neighbour that everyone knows is the evil guy, and of course the handsome protagonist with teenage angst - these are the recipe for the expected clash of dynamics. With this predictability in mind, "Disturbia" emphasises less on the plot but more on the actor's performance, technical detail to camera movements and pacing of the script to build the suspense it so desperately needs. The difference is that instead of trying to guess what is going to happen, we witness how the expected will turn out.
A clever way to build tension is showing how Kale is often wrong, gets caught or doesn't nail the evidence to prove that his odd neighbour is a serial killer. So when the truth is finally out, there is a sense of gratification and satisfaction.
What I also enjoyed about "Disturbia" is how D.J. Caruso maintains the thriller genre with minimum blood, gore and violence. Relying heavily on the script to salvage itself from its own predictability, this movie is a huge character piece, with emphasis on the actor's subtle nuances and delivery of the lines. In this sense, Caruso needed a 'good eye' himself and cast the right people for the roles, especially Morse for the Hannibal Lector-like image.
What Hitchcock might be happy to know is that you no longer have to go to the rear of the window just to spy on your neighbours. In this digital age remake, voyeurism is spookier than ever, as technology turns the private space in your own home more public and open than ever before.Cinema Online, 23 September 2008