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Friday, December 26, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 37.0° F  Fair
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The killer next door
Disturbia invades our privacy
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Disturbia updates Rear Window for the iPod generation.
Disturbia updates Rear Window for the iPod generation.

It's tempting to describe Disturbia as Home Alone plus Silence of the Lambs, but that leaves Rear Window out of the equation, and this is clearly a remake of Hitchcock's 1954 classic - an upgrade for the iPod generation. In the original, Jimmy Stewart was a photojournalist who, hobbled with a broken leg, spent his convalescence spying on the neighbors until one of them appeared to murder his wife. In Disturbia, Shia LaBeouf is a teenager who, under house arrest for slugging a teacher, spies on his neighbors until one of them appears to murder a woman he's brought home from a club. Hitchcock used his premise to examine all sorts of Freudian notions, not to mention our voyeuristic tendencies as both neighbors and moviegoers. Director D.J. Caruso uses his premise to play around with cell phones and camcorders, but also to examine our lack of privacy in the Age of Surveillance. A serial killer can't even dump a body these days without it showing up on YouTube.

If there is a serial killer, that is. Disturbia floats the idea that this may all be the paranoid fantasy of a kid who clearly has too much time on his hands, plus an electronic bracelet on his ankle. Nevertheless, joining him in the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew mystery are his friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), who supplies the comic relief, and his brand-new neighbor, Ashley (Sarah Roemer), who supplies an attractive outlet for our voyeuristic tendencies. The movie works perfectly well as a teen-pic romantic comedy, LaBeouf managing to convey awkwardness and smoothness at the same time. But it also delivers on the thrills and chills, perhaps too much so toward the end. David Morse, a big man with a small voice, tries to get that Hannibal Lecter gleam in his eye. And although he isn't quite as creepy as we might have hoped for, he certainly seems capable of handling a few nosy teenagers. But a few nosy teenagers armed with Nokias? That's a different story.

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