Suburbia, meet Disturbia

Three months under house arrest. What’s the best way to waste your time? Spy on the neighbors — obviously.

Last Monday, McConomy Auditorium hosted an advanced screening of Disturbia, a new horror flick that hit theaters last Friday. The film was worth its price — free — but probably not much more. Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1954 thriller Rear Window, Disturbia tackled the idea that someone is always watching and that every killer has to live next door to someone.

The movie stars Shia LaBeouf, best known for his role as Louis Stevens on Disney’s Even Stevens. LaBeouf plays Kale, a teenager under house arrest (ankle bracelet and all) after punching his Spanish teacher. For Kale, extreme boredom results in fascination with the lives of his neighbors, including a sexy new neighbor. The neighborhood is the epitome of suburbia. But picture Wisteria Lane; much like any typical suburb, everyone has a secret.

Kale quickly becomes familiar with his neighbors’ comings and goings. Setting out binoculars at most of the windows of his house, Kale spends entire days glimpsing other people’s lives. Soon, Kale begins to suspect that his creepy next-door neighbor Mr. Turner (David Morse, Detective Tritter on House) might be a psychotic axe murderer with a thing for redheads. Eager to learn more, Kale enlists the help of his best friend Ronnie (vaguely reminiscent of John Cho’s character from American Pie), and, eventually, Ashley — the aforementioned girl next door.

What began as suspicion turns into a full-fledged investigation on the part of Kale, even as his mother and probation officer insist that he mind his own business. The last half hour of the movie reverts to typical slasher-film style, with the standard nonsense. For example, why is it necessary to go into the neighbor’s house when he is a suspected killer? Obviously, that’s the smartest thing to do. The casting choices in this movie were rather... interesting. A Disney Channel comedian (Labeouf), a California Pacific Sunwear model (Sarah Roemer, as Ashley), and a Penn graduate playing the stereotypical “stoner Asian” (Aaron Yoo, as Ronnie) starred alongside SAG Award nominees David Morse and Carrie-Anne Moss (the Matrix trilogy), who played Kale’s mother. Let’s be serious: Can anyone really imagine Carrie-Anne Moss as anything except a bad-ass chick in tight leather and dark sunglasses?

Although definitely not worthy of any awards, Disturbia is decently entertaining — sort of a happy medium where Hostel meets Club Dread. And let’s not forget about the teen romance; it was a PG-13 movie after all. At one point, Kale confesses to Ashley that he’s been watching her since she moved in. He describes, in detail, how he’s come to know her through her daily habits (reading on the roof outside her bedroom window, working on her tan beside her pool in a bikini). Naturally, Kale’s borderline-stalker behavior warrants a long-awaited make-out session. Creepy? Yes. Far-fetched? Definitely. Entertaining? Sure — break out of your ankle bracelet and give Disturbia a try.