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Hi-Tech Disturbia Aims Lo-Fi Morality at Teens

  • Christa Banister Contributing Writer
  • Updated Apr 13, 2007
Hi-Tech <i>Disturbia</i> Aims Lo-Fi Morality at Teens

DVD Release Date:  August 7, 2007
Theatrical Release Date:  April 13, 2007
Rating:  PG-13 (for sequences of terror, violence and sensuality)
Genre:  Thriller
Run Time:  104 min.
Director:  D.J. Caruso
Actors:  Shia LaBeouf, Sarah Roemer, Carrie-Anne Moss, David Morse, Aaron Yoo, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Matt Craven

In what’s essentially a modern retelling of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, complete with iPods, PSPs and high-tech surveillance equipment (gee, poor Jimmy Stewart only had his binoculars in Rear Window – how archaic!), Disturbia has plenty going for it in terms of sheer entertainment value. But when it’s all said and done, the slickly-edited flick ends up being nothing more than a commercial for voyeurism and teenage rebellion.

In the opening scene, we’re introduced to Kale (Holes star Shia LaBeouf), a quick-witted high-schooler who enjoys fly fishing with his Dad. But on the way home from one of their adventures, Kale’s happy-go-lucky life changes forever when his Dad is unexpectedly killed in a car accident.

As a result of the tragedy, Kale becomes distant and disinterested in school, and in a fit of disgust over his Spanish teacher’s flippant comment about his poor performance in the class, Kale pops him in the face and is eventually sentenced to house arrest over summer break.

Even though he’s bored out of his mind, a point the filmmakers make in far too extensive of detail, Kale finds plenty of ways to pass the time as he seems to own every toy that today’s technology has to offer. And when a hot girl named Ashley (newcomer Sarah Roemer) moves in next store, these gadgets are put to good use as he spies on her constantly. As if she knew Kale was watching, Ashley always seems to be parading around by the pool in skimpy bikinis, much to the teenager’s hormone-charged delight.

Because Kale’s mom (Carrie-Anne Moss) is never home, he has a lot of time to spy on not only Ashley, but everyone in the neighborhood, including mysterious Mr. Turner (David Morse) who may or may not be a serial killer. I won’t bother to reveal much more of the plot than that, but I will say that an abundance of glue-you-to-your-seat suspense follows as Kale and Ashley investigate.

While the teens-as-heroes story has a wide range of appeal, especially among that very demographic, there’s far too much that’s morally questionable about the film to make it worthwhile. Not only are there not any positive adult role models (instead the teens are decidedly the boss of the parents), but bad behavior is glamorized, especially in one of the film’s most disturbing scenes where elementary-age kids are watching porn.

Although it’s probably not the reason the filmmakers had in mind when they called it Disturbia, it’s the lack of any kind of morals that makes this film so disturbing, especially when the main characters are teens.
AUDIENCE:  Teens and up


  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Social and underage drinking shown on occasion
  • Language/Profanity:  An assortment of expletives, including instances of the Lord’s name taken in vain
  • Sex/Nudity:  While only a couple of passionate kisses are shared between the co-stars, sensuality abounds as Ashley is shown parading around in skimpy bikinis much to the delight of Kale, who watches her through his binoculars. There’s also a reference to oral sex and a couple of scenes where elementary-age children are watching porn in secret (glimpses of bare breasts and girls kissing other girls are revealed).
  • Violence:  Since the movie’s plotline revolves around a serial killer, there’s an abundance of gruesome images: dead bodies wrapped in plastic, blood, and intense scenes where the killer is chasing Kale around the house and harming other main characters. There’s also a disturbing car crash at the beginning of the film where Kale’s dad is killed.