2007, Movie, PG-13, 97 mins


A teenage peeper discovers the darkness beneath his suburban hometown's placid surface, learning in the process that when you look into the dirty affairs of a serial killer, the killer looks back into yours.

Still reeling from his father's (Matt Craven) death in a car crash a year earlier, Kale Brecht (Shia LaBoeuf) is faced with spending the summer in his own personal hell: home. After impulsively slugging his Spanish teacher, Kale is sentenced to summer-long house arrest, and not only is his physical world suddenly reduced to an area 100 feet from his ankle bracelet's transmitter, but his exasperated mom (Carrie-Ann Moss) cancels his iTunes account, terminates his Xbox access and vacation and stripped of his high-tech cocoon, Kale actually starts taking an interest in his own neighborhood, if ncuts off — literally, with scissors — the TV cable. With his best friend, Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), away on familyot a particularly healthy or constructive one. To Kale's amazement, his neighbors' lives are like reality television in the raw. The solid family man across the street is having an affair with the maid. The new neighbors next door include a stunner his own age who dons a teeny-weenie bikini for daily dips in the pool and does half-clad yoga stretches in her bedroom at night. And quiet Mr. Turner (David Morse) on the other side: How creepy-cool is it that he drives the same distinctive vintage car — an electric blue '69 Mustang with a dented fender — as the suspect in an ongoing missing-person case? By the time Ronnie returns and Ashley (Sarah Roemer) — the neighbor hottie, who turns out to have both a name and a brain — has started hanging out chez Brecht, Kale more than half believes Turner is a psycho from Texas who murdered at least seven women several years earlier, then dropped out of sight. Kale, Ronnie and Ashley ramp up their surveillance, rigging cameras and video feeds in hopes of capturing evidence, but it's still a lark until Turner notices them. Then the amateur gumshoe games take a turn for the deeply serious.

Director D.J. Caruso's teen-friendly spin on Alfred Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW (1954) does so many things right that it's a shame to see it sink into horror-movie cliches. Christopher Landon's screenplay starts off with a bang — the car crash that kills Kale's dad rivals the crash that opens THE LOOKOUT (2007) — then takes its time establishing both the blandly idyllic milieu and restless, tech-savvy teens Kale, Ronnie and Ashley. And then the house-of-horrors stuff starts: It's crowd-pleasing in a lazy way, but it belongs in a different, dumber movie. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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