Bum bum be-dum bum bum be-dum bum. That’s simultaneously the lyrics to the Rihanna song Disturbia and my review of the Shia LaBeouf film Disturbia.
LaBeouf, who recently announced his retirement from life, plays a suburban teenager under house arrest who starts to spy on his neighbours, and becomes convinced that the creepy man next door is a murderer. Sound familiar? That’s because this is a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, in all but name. Which leaves me with a difficult question – would I hate this film more or less if it was called Rear Window? As infuriating as direct Hitchcock remakes are, there seems to be something even worse about not even crediting the classic from which this so blatantly steals. Not that LaBeouf, the people’s plagiarist, would care about that. I should state that legally, Disturbia did not steal from Rear Window, as was ruled by a US judge. Presumably one who hadn’t seen either film. This is more of a remake than most actual remakes.
Rather than putting the protagonist in a wheelchair, they’ve updated it for the ASBO generation and put him under house arrest for punching his Spanish teacher. This doesn’t really work in quite the same way. In Hitchcock’s movie, the jeopardy came from James Stewart’s helplessness – he was stuck in his apartment, with no means of going to Grace Kelly’s aid. In Disturbia, Shia LaBeouf is perfectly capable of leaving his house if he needs to. There also couldn’t be a larger disparity between the levels of charm of these two leads. James Stewart is the epitome of the likeable everyman, while Shia LaBeouf is an obnoxious slimeball with a punchable foot of a face.
That’s not to say it’s a particularly bad movie. There are a few laughs, an executive producer credit for a certain Ivan Reitman and a soundtrack comprised of the crap I was listening to back in 2007. But it is just another glossy and soulless remake, devoid of all subtlety, atmosphere and characters. The people behind these remakes must assume that teenagers can only enjoy films about teenagers, so we have to sit and endure these unlikeable little creeps about whom we simply don’t care.
Just watch the 1954 original, or The Simpsons version Bart of Darkness, in which a housebound Bart fears that Flanders is murdering his own family – “He’s going to kill Rod and Todd too, that’s horrible! In principle.” Disturbia even has one of the worst taglines ever: “Every killer lives next door to someone.” When I read that I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. It’s not even accurate. But what do I expect from an uncredited remake of Rear Window, named after a Rihanna song, starring Shia LaBeouf.