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Paramount Home Video presents

Disturbia HD-DVD (2007)

"This girl died from blunt trauma, most likely blows to the head and the face. Gnarly. I'm hungry. Let's order a pizza."- Ashley (Sarah Roemer)

Stars: Shia LaBeouf, David Morse, Sarah Roemer, Carrie-Anne Moss
Other Stars: Aaron Yoo
Director: D.J. Caruso

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of terror and violence, and some sensuality
Run Time: 01h:44m:30s
Release Date: 2007-08-07
Genre: suspense thriller

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Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BA-A- B

 

DVD Review

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to film a new version of a Alfred Hitchcock classic, but chutzpah alone won't carry the day, as we saw with the disastrous remake of Psycho. But reimagining Rear Window with both modern technology and a modern sensibility is a notion that had possibilities. What comes as a surprise is not that Disturbia offers a Silence of the Lambs vibe to the proceedings, but that it also combines that with a John Cusack-style teen sex comedy. The results work surprisingly well, making for an enjoyable concoction that stands on its own merits.

Seventeen-year-old Kale Brecht (Shia LaBeouf) is a more-than-ordinarily troubled teen, feeling guilty about the death of his father in a car wreck. When he acts out by punching his Spanish teacher, Kale is put under house arrest at home with his mother Julie (Carrie-Anne Moss). Stuck on the property by the radio-transmitter fastened to his ankle for three months, a bored Kale becomes pruriently interested in what his neighbors are doing, with help of binoculars and night-vision camcorders. That's particularly amusing for him when young Ashley (Sarah Roemer) moves in next door and has a penchant for doing yoga in scanty clothing and swimming in microscopic bikinis. But things take a turn for the sinister when Kale begins to believe that another neighbor, Robert Turner (David Morse), is a serial killer responsible for a string of disappearing women. Becoming obsessive, Kale enlists Ashley and his friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) into trying to break into Turner's home in order to collect evidence against him. But what they don't count on is that when you can see in through a window, the people inside may be able to see out as well.

The first few reels are standard-issue sex comedy, with plenty of ogling of Roemer and the sophomoric humor of Kale and Ronnie as they snigger over Ashley's attributes. Laden with computers, televisions, iPods and other goodies, Kale's punishment is actually pretty comfortable, which helps him propel into perversion without too much effort. The shift of gears into suspense thriller is a little jarring, but that's appropriate as the situation also hits Kale as a shock in the midst of his enforced vacation. What may or may not be the murder of a call girl is appropriately horrifying amidst the voyeuristic amusement, with tantalizing hints that are susceptible of multiple interpretations, making Kale uncertain until a teen desire to leap to conclusions wins out.

While LaBeouf is no Jimmy Stewart, he certainly manages to be exceedingly charming, which helps close one of the massive logic holes in the script: Ashley's attitude towards Kale's voyeurism. Rather than reacting with shock, disgust or any genuine attitude, she seems to find the whole notion cute, and strikes up a friendship with Kale instead of calling the police on him and sending him to juvenile hall. The relationship still doesn't feel quite natural, but since Ashley is presented as a fantasy figure anyway, she might as well act like one too. Morse manages a charm of his own that makes him seem like a plausible serial killer, with a darkness lurking under the facile surface. Carrie-Anne Moss ends up with little to do (most of her part can be found in the deleted scenes section), while Aaron Yoo's gift for improv generates plenty of amusing if mildly juvenile comedy.

For all the good-humored flirtatiousness of the first half of the movie, the second half descends into darkness with a vengeance, with occasionally brutal violence that isn't gory but nonetheless a bit hard to take. The sun-drenched opening forms a great contrast with the dark cast to the second part, and director D.J. Caruso ratchets up the suspense to often unbearable levels. The use of technology is interesting; where many movies no longer work in a world that is full of cellphones and instant communications, Disturbia revels in the fact that it's the high tech that makes Kale's probing possible, and in fact leads the trio into danger as they attempt to place their camera in useful positions, and as Ashley follows Turner through a hardware store with a cellphone camera, getting too close for her own good. Plenty of lines are crossed in Disturbia, and there are a wide variety of consequences, many of which are surprising.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The HD transfer uses the AVC codec, and it is a good deal sharper than many such transfers. While there's good differentiation to the shadow detail, the garage and Turner's house are suitably dark and murky so that it's difficult to make out exactly what you're seeing, which is part of the point. Color is crisp and vivid, with no signs of edge enhancement, artifacting or posterization. There's little to complain about here, though it doesn't have much 3-D pop.

Image Transfer Grade: A-
 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
+
English, French, Spanishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: English tracks are provided in both 5.1 DD EX and 6.1 DTS ES. There's not a huge difference between the two, though the DTS offers a mildly wider soundstage. Both are clean and have a nice impact; there are a number of foley effects, such as doorbells and knocks, that will have you jumping to get the door. Geoff Zanelli's score comes across with good range and doesn't seem to be notably lacking at either end of the scale.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by writer/director D.J. Caruso, Shia LaBeouf, Sarah Roemer
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Music video
  2. Photo gallery
  3. Outtakes and bloopers
Extras Review: The package includes quite a few extras, all of which are presented in lovely HD. The director and two of the stars offer a commentary that is periodically interrupted by cellphone calls that Caruso insists on taking, making this one of the more annoying commentary tracks I've been subjected to. In between, there are some interesting observations as well as several expressions of Roemer's annoyance at the crew's interest in her body. A "trivia pop up quiz" is a subtitle track that presents little related to the movie, offering such tidbits as the fact that Twinkies were invented in 1930, or that the average person eats 46 pieces of pizza per year. It's pretty dispensable, as is the making-of (14m:51s), though it's amusing to note that the filmmaker's monitors look oddly similar to the monitor Kale uses in his room. Four deleted scenes totalling about four minutes flesh out the relationship between Kale and his mother, offering more Carrie-Anne Moss in mom mode, which may be a bit startling for those who know her mostly from the Matrix movies. A set of outtakes and bloopers (running 1m:27s) is mostly silly goofing around with fly-fishing antics. There's a music video for Don't Make Me Wait by This World Fair, also directed by Caruso, a gallery of nearly four dozen stills (oddly, presented in VC-1 codec, while the rest of the disc is AVC), and the theatrical trailer. Quantity is high but the quality is hit and miss.

Extras Grade: B
 

Final Comments

It probably shouldn't work, but Disturbia manages to be nonstop fun on several different levels, a weird amalgam of two vastly different genres that rattles right along. Just don't think too hard about it. The transfer is topnotch, and there are plenty of HD extras.

Mark Zimmer 2007-08-08