Rear Window Lite

I’ve often said that there are no new ideas in movies, only new spins on old ideas. This seems to fuel the rabid remake and sequel market, which is pouring out of Hollywood like hot, unstoppable lava. This summer is rife with such material, but first we get Disturbia, a remake of one of my all-time favorite films (if not the all-time favorite), Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. This version is for the teen set, and while I was mildly interested at first, the movie totally collapses in the third act, rehashing every horror movie cliché known to man.

Kale (Shia LaBeouf) is having a rough life. First he loses his Dad in a freak car accident, then punches a teacher who makes a joke about it. He is now under house arrest for the summer, and must wear an ankle monitor that keeps him within his property. After his mom (Carrie-Anne Moss) turns off his Xbox Live and iTunes accounts, he has nothing to do but stare out the windows at his neighbors. This is at first pleasing when he spots sexy newcomer Ashley (Sarah Roemer), but things get dicey when he suspects creepy Mr. Turner (David Morse) of murder and sets out to prove it.

I had some high hopes for this movie. The co-screenwriter is Carl Ellsworth who penned one of my favorite movies of 2005, Red Eye. That film was not very original, either, but was efficient and effective. Maybe, I thought, he could re-invent a classic for a younger audience and entertain older ones as well. Boy, was I wrong.

The setup of Disturbia actually works fairly well. LaBeouf (The Greatest Game Ever Played) makes a likeable hero, and Roemer (The Grudge 2) is a worthy attraction for him. Goofy friend Aaron Yoo provides comic relief and Morse (16 Blocks) is good at being menacing. There is good character development intermixed with humor, added with the obvious voyeurism and paranoia. At this point we’re still not sure what’s fact and fiction so the audience is as off balance as Kale. It’s a classic movie mix, and while I wasn’t loving it, I wasn’t bored, either.

Then the third act hits. Anything that was working before is ditched for cheap scares, an omniscient killer (who does something very stupid at the service of the screenplay), and a hero who blunders into all kinds of incriminating evidence (while the killer watches! What?). Any previous suspense created quickly disappears after a ridiculous turn of events. I realize this isn’t exactly new material, but neither was Red Eye. That movie followed through with what it started, this one just implodes.

If you haven’t seen Rear Window or any horror films, you may enjoy Disturbia. Otherwise, prepare to be somewhat entertained then completely let down by this very predictable thriller.