If you're anything like me, and I think you are, October is a special time of year. It's the time when the Halloween decorations come out, the weather gets colder, and the scary movies start playing, both in theaters and at home.
This October I already have plans to watch a few scary movies. Tomorrow night I'll be seeing the uber-low budget film, Paranormal Activity, and I've got Scream, Ghostbusters, Monster Squad, and The Haunting queued up and ready to play over the next few weeks. (Yes I realize some of those are comedies/kids movies, but all paranormal/horror/suspense movies get fair play in the CineManiac household, except for torture porn, I hate that crap!) And I'll be using the last of some store credit I have to pick up Trick'R'Treat next week.
On a side note, Scream, Monster Squad, and The Haunting are all being watched for a new column I have starting tomorrow at DVD Snapshot. The column, Flashback Friday, has me looking back at movies of the past 25 years, looking at how I remember the movie, and what I think of it on a recent viewing. I'll link to the first one, looking at The Matrix, tomorrow.
This October I'll also be re-posting some older reviews, columns, etc, including last year's "Things I'm Watching This Halloween" and the column I began in 2007 charting my history with Horror, which was interrupted be a wildfire and never completed. So to begin I'm posting an old review of 2007's Disturbia.
As a fan of Hitchcock's Rear Window, it would have been easy to blow this off as another inept attempt to remake a classic. But as a fan of star Shia LaBeouf from back when he was on Disney's Even Stevens I wanted to check it out from Day 1. Unfortunately between writing papers, studying and taking finals, and seeing Hot Fuzz and Spider-Man 3, I really didn't have the time until Thursday, and I'm glad I didn't miss it while it was in theaters.
The movie starts with Kale (LaBeouf) and his father on the lake fishing, from the start we can tell they have a good relationship and that Kale is a happy and easygoing guy, if somewhat of a smart mouth. Soon Kale's father dies in a tragic accident, in a scene that was so intense it will stick with you hours later. We then cut to "One Year Later" and open on a high school classroom, where Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) is telling his Spanish class about his upcoming summer vacation, in spanish. I'm sure this scene was very funny, but I'm not sure as the Mann Agora theater, unlike the Arclight (My Personal Favorite Theater), doesn't have their employees watch the first few minutes of the movie to make sure it's aligned correctly and in focus, so I had to go find someone to focus the movie and missed the rest of the scene.
We are then reintroduced to Kale as he sits, asleep, in his spanish class and is woken by his teacher. Kale is now withdrawn and full of anger, which soon lands him in court where he is sentenced to 3 months of house arrest. Forced to wear an ankle bracelet, Kale must stay within a 100 foot radius of the receiver located in his house. Here we are treated to a nice montage of Kale trying to figure out what to do to keep him sane while stuck inside his house. Besides playing video games and watching tv, Kale attempts to do his laundry (by shoving everything into the washer at once with a healthy dose of detergent) and actually cleaning the house. Soon Kale realizes how serious his situation is when some neighborhood kids lite a bag of flaming poo on his porch, Kale chases after them and is soon in handcuffs.
To avoid leaving his 100 foot radius again Kale sets out to establish a perimeter so he knows exactly how far he can go, and quickly realizes his neighbors are interesting to watch. Soon Kale is watching all of his neighbors from the comfort of his home through his binoculars. He takes a special interest in his hot new neighbor, Ashely (Sarah Roemer), and soon he and his pal Ronnie are taking in her daily swim. When Ashely catches them she too joins the voyeuristic fun of watching others without their knowledge.
The trio take a special interest in Mr. Turner (David Morse) who may or may not match the description of a man who was the last person seen with a missing woman. His car fits the description and so the gang makes the assumption that he may be a serial killer, living in their own little neighborhood. What follows is an intense series of cat and mouse games designed to keep you guessing about Turner and his motives.
I really enjoyed this movie, really enjoyed it. I think the biggest strength is that the characters are well developed, instead of just being caricatures. I think it could have been very easy to make this movie with just cardboard characters, but the writers and director did a great job of fleshing out the characters and making you feel for them (well most of them).
The actors themselves bring a lot to the film as well. I've always been a fan of Morse, who usually seems to play a cop or a bad guy or a bad cop, and he's pitch perfect here. Morse is a large man and I think his stature adds to the sense of terror he brings to the screen, by towering over the others it makes him more intense and menacing. Relative newcomers Roemer and Yoo do a great job as the love interest/best friend respectively and bring a lot of humor and suspense to the film. I think another reason I enjoy the film so much is that there is a healthy dose of humor in the movie, it's not just a suspenseful, edge of your seat thriller, but has a bit of a comedic element that helps alleve the tension when it needs it most.
But, I think the biggest revelation of the movie is the acting ability of LaBeouf, as I've said I'm a big fan of his, but I was blown away at how far he's come since Even Stevens and Holes. I have yet to see "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" his last film that got rave reviews, so I'm not sure if that was where he really stepped up his game, but after seeing this movie I'm very excited to check that one out and see if he carries the same weight as he does here.
Overall a fun, suspenseful thriller. See it in theaters while you can, there's a reason it's made $66 Million and counting.