I never want to see his face again.


An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            Well, you see, it’s this way: “Disturbia” is a teen flick with a universal theme, and that’s why the carnage, corpses, and carcasses of the last half hour are perfectly capable of inducing an adult heart attack.

            With great skill and imagination, director D.J. Caruso sets up an opening scene that creates in us instant love for a father and son only to lose one of them two minutes later. He needed just two minutes to create a deep sense of personal loss; that’s skill.

            Jump ahead in time to mother and son living in a typical suburb surrounded by houses, the kind of place where families can have pride of ownership but not a moment’s privacy. On this particular day a new family moves next door to Gil (Shia LaBeouf) and his mother. The new neighbors include a blonde daughter, Ashley (Sarah Roemer) who swims gracefully in the family pool under the close watch of Gil’s binoculars. He has plenty of time to do this, you see, because he is under three months of house arrest in an ankle bracelet for assaulting his Spanish teacher.

            Gil spends his time lounging in a state of slothful depression in the squalor of his untended bedroom. Disgusted, Mom resigns as her son’s maid, cuts the cord of his TV and tosses his Itunes. To lighten his darkness he spends the long empty days ogling Ashley and hanging out with his feckless friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) who can be talked into doing almost any errand, good or bad, for his craftier buddy.

            Remember the movie’s tagline: “every killer lives next door to someone.” While this movie is no threat to “Rear Window,” credit is due Sheila LaBeouf and Sarah Roemer who build the suspense. La Beouf can be awkward, slovenly, sharp, or warm depending on what the script calls for, and he has – what else can I call it – a lovely expression in his smile.

            As the trio becomes suspicious of Mr. Turner (David Morse), a weird neighbor who makes many things go thump in the night, they fiddle with all kinds of electronic modifications to their gadgets in their search for discovery. And now: escalation. The sound track periodically trumpets the onset of the villain, leaving various audience members skewed in their seats trying to avoid having to look at or listen to the latest shock up there on the screen. If you can’t hold both your eyes and your ears closed at the same time, choose your ears because the sound is even more frightening than the sight.

            We care about Gil. The other half of this battle? David Morse is a horrifically effective bad guy. He sends danger flooding into the audience with the slightest flick of an expression. He is a spectacular villain, the perfect opponent for our adolescent hero. I never want to see his face again, even if he takes up romantic comedy. He’s that good.


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