John Ainslie’s Do Not Disturb portrays what nastiness festers behind locked hotel room doors in this heavy dose of psychedelic anarchy. What feels like a stripped-down mashup of Bones & All, Very Bad Things, and The Hangover sends broken people on a bad and bloody trip. It might not look that way at first, because Ainslie wants the initial twenty to thirty minutes to feel more dramatically inclined. That’s when the peyote ingestion begins, and terrible decisions breed despicable outcomes in a fashion that’ll please viewers who appreciate a savage brand of tonal chaos.
Canadian newlyweds Chloe (Kimberly Laferriere) and Jack (Rogan Christopher) travel to Miami to reignite what passion once existed. They’re your typical front-page couple in divorce pamphlets. Chloe’s still grieving after a failed pregnancy while Jack focuses on getting blitzed, proper man-child style. That’s when opportunity presents itself — a delusional man possibly on bath salts hurls bags of narcotics at the two then vanishes into the ocean. Jack and Chloe retreat to their room, argue about what to do with their new supply, then swallow what’s identified as a strain of peyote recommended by shamans for spiritual discovery. One bite turns into two, time begins to lapse, and the intoxication starts to cause blackouts neither partner can piece together.
Much of Do Not Disturb is contained inside a spacious Adults Only hotel room where Jack and Chloe embark on an atypical exploration of unhealthy relationship dynamics. When sober, they’re frustrated and at one another’s throats. When stoned, they display attraction through destructive behaviors. What unfolds is not therapeutic or cathartic, more like a powder keg that only needs one measly spark to explode. Each blackout brings them closer to a Chernobyl-like fate, and yet Jack can’t stop forcing more peyote into their systems because it’s the only thing bringing them together. Ainslie has plenty to say about love, commitment, and partnership, better suited for appetites that feast on darker and more cynical evaluations that dodge storybook Lifetime arcs.
Of course, we’re in support of Jack’s insistence on finishing all their inherited drugs — including an undisclosed ruby powder — because that’s when Laferriere and Christopher deliver their best performances. Do Not Disturb is quite sluggish before drugs hasten their downward spiral. Both actors are somewhat wooden as a doomed husband and wife who don’t seem to have any common ground left. The argument would be that these subdued takes on Chloe and Jack are what accentuate their hyper-bubbly and sillier turns when under the influence, but that doesn’t negate how Do Not Disturb drags during its buildups and transitions between peyote hazes.
Laferriere and Christopher are locked into giggle fits and sweaty paranoia when high as kites. Do Not Disturb can be laugh-out-loud-funny despite its heartbroken themes, especially when Jack believes he’s paralyzed or spitting lines that would only make sense to someone half past baked. Laferriere projects aggression and dominates others as Chloe emerges from her shell, selling the film’s more fearful and carnal nature. Ainslie can’t achieve the psychotic results that enter horror territory throughout the film’s later acts without letting mundanity influence the film’s first act — it’s part of Chloe and Jack’s evolution together — which helps stomach their less engaging arrival woes. With a little help from Janet Porter and Christian McKenna as older swingers seeking excitement, Ainslie ensures his whacked-out protagonists get in nothing but trouble once the partying starts.
Do Not Disturb is a disturbed psycho-vacation freakout like the aftermath after Cupid went on an Ozzy Osbourne-sized bender. John Ainslie does a lot with minimal means: two lead actors, infected bite marks, maybe a severed limb or two. Kimberly Laferriere and Rogan Christopher don’t make the most of every moment but excel in the film’s most absurdly memorable setups. It’s a film that’s hard to pin down and all the better for its elusiveness, like a romantic comedy that fell in with the wrong (but right) horror crowd.
Do Not Disturb comes to Digital from Dark Star Pictures on November 21.
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