PG-13 Horror That Doesn’t Suck: “Disturbia” (2007)

Here’s my vote: “Disturbia” (2007), PG-13. This dark little gem famously owes a debt to “Rear Window,” but it’s not a rip-off or a retelling. It shows how much suspense and dread can arise from a solid script and believable characters — in this case, Shia LaBeouf as Kale and David Morse as his increasingly creepy neighbor, who may or may not be a serial killer. Kale’s father is killed in a car wreck in the first harrowing sequence, which just makes it that much harder to watch when his mother ends up in danger. And they’re such nice people, and they LIKE each other — how can the audience not get sucked in?

The film also contains one of my favorite exchanges:
“It reeks in here!”
“What’s it smell like?”
“The corpse of a rotting hottie!”

I’m not sure how family-friendly rotting hotties are, but the sex and violence are fairly muted, with much left to the imagination… my parents probably would have let me watch it if it had come out when I was a kid. And it’s nice to see a movie about a teen who loves his parents and his friends. I was surprised to find myself pretty unnerved the first time I watched it, and it holds up to the occasional re-watching. It’s a movie with a definite male point of view, but the women are fairly three-dimensional and don’t spend all their time being threatened and/or rescued; the flick even passes the Bechdel Test, technically. Also, Shia LaBeouf. Also, David Morse. What’s not to love?

–Jay Sorensen