Fathers and Daughters:
In Their Own Words
by Mariana Cook
(Discounted Paperback from Amazon)
This vehicle for an up and coming teenage star (or two) is a surprise hit because of its portrayal of a young man given to an exaggerated imagination while confined to his home in the suburbs. As a successful horror entry, it owes something (I'd like to think) to its elements of plausibility before straining all sense of realism.
Sullen student Kale Brecht (Shia LaBeouf, "Transformers") heads for court after punching out his Spanish teacher for mentioning his father. He isn't over grieving his loss of dad as a victim of a highway accident in which dad died and he barely escaped alive. In a fit of understanding, the judge sentences him to home confinement, with an ankle bracelet that allows him a 50 foot radius from the base station.
Idling away his time day after day, one of his principal diversions is to spy on his suburban neighbors, including a brotherhood of three pre-teen mischief-makers who spend their evenings in their room watching porn, a new family just moved in next door with a gorgeous teen-age daughter, and a man of mystery who seems reclusive except for when he's entertaining a woman.
When Kale watches a news announcement about a hit and run by a car that matches his neighbor's down to a dent in the font end, and when he watches the guy entertaining his latest date, his suspicions turn to immediate fits of horror in the belief that what he's watching is a serial killer in action.
Of this, he can convince no one... until his binocular spying on Ashley (Sarah Roemer), the fetching blond on the other side of his house, results in her awareness of his attentions. Her appearance at the front door stuns Kale and Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) who is hanging out in support of his paranoid pal. The trio now form a vigilante group that takes spying to more daring lengths and receive more than they, and his increasingly embarrassed mom (Carrie-Ann Moss), bargained for.
The difficulty of keeping home confinement tense and vital for feature length proves a strain but works more as a result of LaBeouf's zany energetic charm, and the romantic comedy aspect, than for D. J. Caruso direction or for the astuteness of the writing by Christopher Landon and Carl Ellsworth. The collaboration can boast, however, of a horror thriller whose first two acts plays at a welcome level of realism. It's also appealing to its intended audience looking for thrills and romance in an identifiable setting. As for the rest of us, the last act could be considered inexcusable despite the payday for the effort, which is tasty icing on the revenue cake for the filmmakers.
~~ Jules Brenner