What goes on behind suburban walls?

2008-10-02 08:05

THE somewhat trite premise of Disturbia is that neighbours aren't what they seem behind their manicured lawns and plush curtains. But it's a gripping thriller, nonetheless.

Shia LaBeouf is Kale, a good son gone bad after the death of his father. After punching his Spanish teacher in class he is placed under house arrest and an electronic ankle bracelet makes sure that he can't leave his yard without the police knowing.

He is, however, not in a state of sensory deprivation and soon starts casually spying on his neighbours to relieve the boredom: the delinquent kids who watch porn; the sexy daughter battling with parental infidelity, and the shy man whose suspicious comings and goings mark him as a psycho.

Kale can't shake the thought and he sets about, with the help of an eccentric classmate, trying to snare him.

In between there's a blossoming romance, and his struggling relationship with his mother, Carrie-Ann Moss, unrecognisable from her role in Matrix.

At the level of thriller, Disturbia (which is a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window) is effective edge-of-your-seat stuff, with the unexpected twist that it avoids the obvious twists.

As social commentary, however, it's a non-starter. Even though it's supposed to be making some sort of statement about the evil that lurks within suburbia, it does no more than present it as a literal fact. It doesn't begin to consider the prevailing value system that finds suburban living as the purest expression of social norms and achievements, à la American Dream.

Put aside that expectation, though, and enjoy the spooky ride.

***

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