*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Disturbia" is not a horror movie. It's not a slasher movie. It's not a neo-noir, although it has made a neo-noir list or two because it does have some neo-noir thematic content. I watched it to see if it's a neo-noir or not.
This movie is basically a variation on "Rear Window" but with very different emphases. It's a suspense thriller that's largely lacking in suspense and thrills. That aspect only develops toward the later part of the movie. The first lengthy portions focus on the house arrest of Shia LaBeouf and his infatuation with a teen neighbor, Sarah Roemer. The movie is mainly a showcase for Shia LaBeouf who has a very large role, and he does a respectable job with it.
LaBoeuf is under house arrest, visited mainly by his pal, Aaron Yoo. Yoo's character is very likable, balancing LaBoeuf's character, who tends to be off-putting. He is grouchy, defensive and short-tempered. He doesn't smile much. He doesn't have an outlet for his aggressive trait, and especially because he's under house arrest. The portrait of a rebellious and misunderstood teen is a cliché, at least since James Dean. Here we add in irascibility. On the other hand, he's a loyal sort of guy.
LaBoeuf takes to spying on his neighbors, especially Sarah Roemer, who has just moved in. This provides the story's love interest and a healthy dose of audience appeal. But then he is led to become suspicious of neighbor David Morse, who he suspects is a murderer. This takes quite awhile to develop story-wise, but finally the movie's confrontations develop and the story turns into one of great peril for everyone concerned. These perils are, however, nothing much different from many other movies; and they're not developed or handled with any unusual degree of suspense. In fact, it all seems to be staged by the numbers.
In the end, we have a pretty routine movie that did very well at the box office. That's because of LaBoeuf, I think, the substantial teenage focus of the movie, and a story that pits the teenagers against the horrid adult world represented by David Morse. Yes, he's an extreme killer and he's not an unbiased sample of adult behavior, but he still represents the adult world. In this movie, the adults don't look good at all. The court is repressive and very heavy-handed in dealing with LaBoeuf. The police take joy in throttling LaBoeuf or in being slow to come to his aid. The adults seem to like locking this boy up. The court's bureaucrats are only interested in collecting fees. LaBoeuf's mother is largely absent and then doesn't heed what he has to say. Neither do any authority figures. So, Morse as killer is but an extension of this coercive adult world. Suburbia becomes disturbia, a disturbed world in more ways than one, not just because of Morse. All of this is where the neo-noir thematics come in.
Overall, we have here another quite average Hollywood movie of the day, passing entertainment for those interested in such. It doesn't distinguish itself in any notable way.