[Popcorn Frights Review] 'Do Not Disturb' is a Psychedelic Explosion of Paranoia & Vicious Primality
A toxic relationship can be all consuming…
…It tears at your flesh. Gnaws on your bones. Licks its lips while you writhe in an agony that seems inescapable. Feel uncomfortable? Get used to it, because uncomfortable is the middle name of the latest nightmare from writer/director John Ainslie, Do Not Disturb, which just played at the Popcorn Frights Film Festival.
Ainslie’s film follows struggling newlyweds Chloe (Kimberly Laferriere) and Jack (Rogan Christopher) on their honeymoon at a cheap hotel in Miami. After coming into possession of a strange peyote, the couple soon finds themselves on a descent into utter insanity in which anger is unleashed, paranoia runs rampant and carnal desire takes on their most primal…and bloody…form.
Do Not Disturb is the midnight movie madness you crave.
It all starts with placing two characters who definitely should not be taking dangerous drugs together in a contained setting in which they do a whole lot of dangerous drugs together. From the moment Chloe and Jack step off the plane, they are exposed as a couple on the edge. Chloe wants to grow up and get their lives together, start a family, while Jack wants to keep partying like it’s the 1990s. Tension festers between them, enhanced by Jack’s toxic machismo bullshit expressed through an absurd jealousy and dismissal of every want and need from Chloe, with his only interests resting in sex and whatever he wants to do. They don’t know it yet, but this is just the beginning of a power struggle that takes on a violent form as the film plays on.
Do Not Disturb is a series of “WTF are you doing” bad decisions that gets you out of your seat and screaming at the screen. From deciding to do coke with swinger couple Wendy (Janet Porter) and Wayne (Christian McKenna) to bringing back random drugs thrown at them by an out of his mind psychopath on the beach, our protagonists are a representation of a desperate relationship seeking to feel something for once. I’ve been in one like this before. When you’re trapped in something so toxic, you sometimes do things that you know are wrong because no matter how bad it is, it’s better than another moment of staring across the room at the person responsible for your misery. Not to be a downer, but that’s one of the central terrors which Ainslie explores: The hazardous recklessness of a bad relationship.
The hotel room is an ideal setting for this grim tale. Do Not Disturb is more or less a microcosm of a toxic couple which packs years worth of distrust and the malignant hatred growing between them into a tiny space over just a few days. Ainslie rarely allows the audience to take a breath outside of the stale surroundings for brief outings to a club or the beach, all set to a banger of a soundtrack pumping out that Miami nightlife vibe. For nearly ninety minutes, it’s just the audience and the newlyweds in that goddamn hotel, prisoners of their inability to escape each other.
That might sound depressing—and it is to an extent—but this is also where Do Not Disturb gets real fun.
Once the couple decides to take the mysterious peyote as a way to “find themselves”—while ignoring the knowledge that they should have some kind of spiritual guide with them—they’re on a speeding train screeching towards crazy town. A blood-splattered blend of Raw and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Do Not Disturb is a psychedelic explosion of paranoia and vicious primality. Ainslie’s clever direction and seamless editing from Jordan Crute capture that high out of your mind feeling to a T. Our characters find each other appearing and disappearing, a jaw-dropping amount of devoured rare steaks suddenly popping up out of nowhere, accompanied by a complete loss of time and awareness. The hallucination level doesn’t go to the extremes of something like Fear and Loathing, but it’s enough to create that disorienting mind-melt which leaves the characters and audience spinning.
And then things get nasty. Real nasty.
Thanks to sometimes delightful, sometimes aggressively frightening performances from Lafarriere and Christopher (Laferriere is a force to be reckoned with), Ainslie and the cast do a great job disarming the viewer with an inherent silliness in the premise. It’s a riot to watch Chloe and Jack stumble around or scream in confusion at what’s happening…until it’s not.
Do Not Disturb puts an emphasis on the “disturb”. Whether it’s the drugs or the couple using them as an excuse to explore their most animalistic desires, this film is a gory nosedive into the darkest parts of ourselves. Handcuffed to an unfulfilling relationship, the couple has an insatiable hunger which they feed in every way imaginable. Intense lust. Violence. Other means that’ll make your stomach tremble. All of it a power play in which roles become reversed and Chloe and Jack each discover who they really are underneath all of that flesh. This is the kind of movie which pulsates with a raw energy that deserves to be played at midnight screenings everywhere. It’s a ferocious experience that satisfies that appetite for something truly vicious.
Needless to say, Do Not Disturb is not for the faint of heart…or gut.
Do Not Disturb is a blood-soaked awakening not only for the film’s characters, but for horror fans just learning of Ainslie. With this, Ainslie has established himself as a director to watch with hungry anticipation for the next nightmare.
By Matt Konopka