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'Disturbia' delivers

Trying to improve upon the masterpieces of Hollywood saints is risky business. For this reason, one should always approach remakes of Alfred Hitchcock films with a touch of trepidation. When ambitious filmmakers set out to update classics, the result is almost always disappointing; just ask Gus van Sant, the director of a 1998 version of "Psycho" that could have passed as a Lifetime original movie.

But "Disturbia," a decidedly adolescent version of Hitchcock's "Rear Window," is an exception. The film introduces Kale (Shia LaBeouf), a troubled teenager who takes to spying on his neighbors after he is sentenced to three months of house arrest. Soon enough, he spots the pretty girl next door who has just moved from the city. The only thing they need to bring them together is a mutual enemy, which the film provides in no time in the form of the neighborhood serial killer (a chilling David Morse).

What is most impressive about this movie is that it successfully combines comedy and horror. "Disturbia" -- you will be shattered to hear -- isn't the least bit disturbing. But it is entertaining, thanks to LaBeouf, who makes us laugh while at the same time eliciting our sympathy.

Nervous directors charged with remaking legendary films often approach their subject matter with inflexible reverence. D.J. Caruso, to his credit, avoids this trap. Instead of merely updating Hitchcock's classic, he seeks out a new target audience, a shift that is clear early on in the film. Kale's domineering mother, for instance, takes pleasure in confiscating her son's Xbox, and, later on, his iTunes account. (Talk about harsh parenting.) Caruso made "Disturbia" for the younger, plugged-in crowd, people who would rather text-message than write a letter.

The decision to set the remake in the suburbs, as opposed to the city, where "Rear Window" takes place, seems logical. The metropolis is no longer our Mecca, which this film realizes. We love four-bedroom homes, chemically treated lawns, and minivans. The idea of a serial killer infiltrating our suburban paradise, with its illusory sense of security and its rigid uniformity, is unnerving.

"Disturbia" achieves exactly what it intends to achieve; it entertains, frightens (if only briefly), and satisfies. Amid a parade of horror movies that take themselves too seriously, this movie is a much-needed breath of fresh air.

***

DISTURBIA

Rated: PG-13
Review: 3 stars (Out of 4)
Peter Fulham is a junior at Canisius.

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