[Popcorn Frights] DO NOT DISTURB Review – Psychedelics, Love, and Toxic Relationships
Breanna Lucci says Do Not Disturb is an entertaining drug-induced nightmare that explores complex issues.
[THIS REVIEW CONTAINS REFERENCES TO DOMESTIC, EMOTIONAL, SEXUAL, AND DRUG ABUSE]
Kimberly Laferriere, Rogan Christopher, Janet Porter, and Christian McKenna star in writer, composer, and director John Ainslie’s Miami-based, drug-induced neon horror nightmare, Do Not Disturb. The simplistic yet complicated film dives deep into abusive relationships, drug experimentation, and cannibalistic urges. Complex, gory, and unhinged, it’s undoubtedly entertaining.
On the idyllic beaches of Miami, newlyweds Chole (Laferriere) and Jack (Christopher) excitedly celebrate their honeymoon. While waiting for their room to be ready, they meet Wendy (Porter) and Wayne (McKenna), an eccentric older couple unafraid to form intimate new friendships. We quickly discover that Chloe and Jack’s relationship is far from perfect, and in an attempt to reconnect, the couple tries a mysterious strain of peyote. Things go from bad to worse as the cactus-based drug makes its way through their systems and lives.
Do Not Disturb is rich in societally relevant themes. It explores domestic, reactive, and drug abuse and features strong performances from Laferrier and Christopher, who drive these topics home. Before finding the peyote, Chloe and Jack party with new friends Wendy and Wayne in the couple’s room. The cocaine-laced evening quickly pivots into a sexual encounter, which Jack gleefully entertains—that is, until Wayne and Chole come together. Jack violently pulls her away, screaming at her.
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Do Not Disturb is rich in societally relevant themes. It explores domestic, reactive, and drug abuse and features strong performances from Laferriere and Christopher, who drive these topics home. Before finding the peyote, Chloe and Jack party with new friends Wendy and Wayne in the couple’s room. The cocaine-laced evening quickly pivots into a sexual encounter, which Jack gleefully entertains—that is, until Wayne and Chole come together. Jack violently pulls her away, screaming at her. This moment is one of many examples throughout the film where Jack misbehaves and gaslights Chole into believing everything is her fault. Considering their recent marriage, It’s a pattern that’s disturbing and uncomfortable to observe with consideration of their recent nuptials, but it’s imperative to portray the emotional abuse festering within their relationship.
With the utmost appreciation to Ainslie for fearlessly depicting the depths of domestic abuse, I’d have preferred that he give more voice to the marital rapes in the narrative. Each time an assault occurs, it happens quickly, and the plot moves past it just as fast. Marital rape is a challenging issue that deserves more attention, and Ainslie’s approach comes off as more of a plot-propeller than a subject of importance to be discussed.
Scott McIntyre’s cinematography and the editing by Jordan Crute breathe life into Do Not Disturb. The duo skillfully delivers a dramatic loss of time through hidden sequences, like Chole and Jack sitting on the couch—seemingly a single moment in time—until the camera pans out, and we see stacks of plates containing devoured food. When one of them asks, “When did we eat that?” it echoes our experience as viewers. While most of the film takes place in one tiny hotel room, Ainslie does a fantastic job of using objects to hide things until the perfect moment: the blanket hides bloodstains, the couch hides the body under the bed—you get the gist. Pair that technique with the endlessly fascinating and captivating drug scenes, and we find ourselves, passengers, on the peyote trip.
Do Not Disturb holds no punches with trauma or gore and maintains a robust and centralized voice. Barring insensitive discussions around abuse that should be handled with more care, it’s a well-made exploration of love and toxic relationships. Ainslie’s direction abounds with insightful cinematic techniques and traumatic storytelling, which results in a fascinating experience forcing us into action.
Do Not Disturb world premiered at the Popcorn Frights Film Festival on August 20, 2022.