If you’re going to make a thriller about bored suburban teenagers, you could do a lot worse than use Hitchcock’s Rear Window as your template. The screenwriters of Disturbia have concocted a scenario that has high-schooler Kale (Shia LaBeouf) confined to house arrest and wearing an ankle bracelet after slugging his Spanish teacher. With his Internet entertainment options terminated by single mom Julie (Carrie-Anne Moss of Matrix fame), Kale starts snooping on his neighbors – including the new, bikini-sporting girl next door (Sarah Roemer) and a strange guy (the great character actor David Morse) who mows his lawn a lot and may or may not be piling up bodies in his garage. The story takes its time to get moving, with director D.J. Caruso (who has helmed episodes of The Shield and Smallville) paying an attention to character detail that’s rare in Hollywood movies these days, especially youth-oriented thrillers. LaBeouf is no Jimmy Stewart, but his performance has an engaging everyman appeal, while Roemer brings something extra to the requisite flirtyness. Disturbia is no masterpiece, but it gets a lot of things just right — including some sweet and engaging romantic-comedy business between the awkward-cool LaBeouf and the slyly self-possessed sexpot Roemer, who responds to the intrusion of the male gaze by heading into the voyeur’s house and having a look around to see if anything there suits her. Alas, just when you think Caruso is well on the way to ensuring that what’s on screen will add up to something more than meets the eye, the film’s impressively character-driven narrative descends quickly and shamelessly into horror-movie clichés. It’s a sudden comedown. B-
A version of this review was originally published in the White Plains Times.