REVIEW: DO NOT DISTURB

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Distribution/Production Company: RLJ Entertainment, Ruthless Pictures, Image Entertainment
Directed by: B.C. Furtney
Written By: B.C. Furtney
Starring: Stephen Geoffreys, Tiffany Shepis, Ezra Buzzington, Corey Haim
Running Time: 88 minutes
Rating: Not Rated

SYNOPSIS:

Holed up in a seedy hotel, Hollywood screenwriter Don Malek (Fright Night & 976-Evil‘s Stephen Geoffreys) is scripting a diabolical plan for revenge. But instead of writing about a bloodthirsty serial killer, Don is doing the dirty work with his own hands. Tiffany Shepis (The Violent Kind, Night Of The Demons Remake) and Corey Haim (The Lost Boys) also star in this gritty, jolting thriller where no one is safe…and checkout time is sooner than you think.

I’m not exactly certain where to begin with B.C. Furtney’s DO NOT DISTURB. I just spent the weekend watching it. Well, not the entire weekend, of course, but I watched it 3 times. I generally do that for films before I write a review so I can get a good grasp (or so I hope) on it. With DO NOT DISTURB, however, I continually had this odd sensation that I was missing something. It seemed as though there were parts missing, like some obscure Italian horror film from the 70’s that someone cut the real juicy bits out of. Thus began the mysterious tale of two movies. DO NOT DISTURB was originally, way back in 2010, titled NEW TERMINAL HOTEL. I’m fairly certain the title was changed in order to reach a larger audience as “DO NOT DISTURB” has more of a thriller feel to it than the oddly specific “NEW TERMINAL HOTEL,” particularly when paired with an ominous streak of blood. But was that all that had been changed?

Stephen Geoffreys puts in an interesting performance as screenwriter Don Malek. I’ve  liked Geoffreys as an actor in movies like Fright Night and 976-Evil, where he convincingly played the outsider type of role, and he does it again in DO NOT DISTURB. Without giving too much away, Don Malek is essentially fed up with the way, as a writer, Hollywood has chewed him up and spat him out. He’s so fed up that he’s taken on a “fuck it” attitude towards everything but murderous revenge. At least I’m pretty sure that was the original motive. As I said, things seemed missing from the film and his reason(s) for revenge are almost glossed over. Once I learned of NEW TERMINAL HOTEL, I began to wonder if there might’ve been more to the story. Reading over original reviews from various festivals, I learned of a film full of layered characters and originality. I’m not exactly sure what happened, or even if anything had really been cut from the film, but Geoffreys’s approach to the character had me wondering at times whether he was acting like he didn’t care, or if he was phoning it in. Given how impressed I’ve been with Geoffreys in the past, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here as I believe there were parts of the character that, while missing in the film, would’ve helped to better frame his actions throughout.

Stephen Geoffreys

There were two incredible, standout roles in the film. Tiffany Shepis did a fantastic job of portraying Don Malek’s self-absorbed, highly strung LA writing agent Ava Collins. Initially interested only in Malek’s long overdue script, Ava comes to understand and accept what he’s up to and, showing her dark nature, becomes complicit, going even further when she attempts to enlist Malek to bump off one of her rival agents. This performance came as a pleasant surprise as Tiffany Shepis isn’t usually given a chance to flex her acting muscles. She’s been in countless independent films, and in only a few does she do much more than scream and run around topless (rightly giving her status in the Scream Queen Hall Of Fame). I’ve always thought this almost criminal as, in addition to being stunning, she really is quite talented. I’ve always felt that the true test of an actor is when the viewer forgets the actor entirely and comes to believe only the character is real. I believe Tiffany Shepis did a fantastic job of this in DO NOT DISTURB. It elevated the film and I hope it provides a doorway to more, ahem, fleshed out roles in the future.

tiffany shepis

In another brilliant casting choice, Ezra Buzzington’s portrayal of Spitz, Don Malek’s hard drinking, whore-mongering, handicapped former marine neighbor was brilliant! I was reminded, partially, of Gary Sinise’s wheelchair-bound Lieutenant Dan Taylor in Robert Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump. Of course, all similarities end at washed up, boozy, and handicapped. Buzzington really took the incredibly dark and dirty character of Spitz and just (if you’ll excuse the expression) ran with it. The relationship between Don Malek and Spitz is a tenuous one at best, a sort of fair weather friendship that could only come from being neighbors for more than a few days in a seedy LA no-tell motel. At one point in the film, Don Malek (for reasons you’ll just have to watch the film to find out) needs to borrow Spitz’s wheelchair, paying him off with an armful of booze and owing him a favor. When Spitz comes to collect on that favor after a whore tries to slice ‘n dice him, well, Malek finds something in Spitz’s apartment that truly horrifies him.

ezra buzzington

There is one throwaway role that seemed completely unnecessary to the plot in any way other than to rack up a body count. This, of course, is Corey Haim’s part as a washed up British rock star has been. I say British, but I’m not entirely certain as the accent was kind of all over the place. He may have been a French rock star has been who learned english from a British english teacher in primary school. Or he could’ve been just some guy pretending to be a washed up British rock star has been. Any of these could be true because we never really learn anything about him other than he’s kind of an asshole who, given his very thin relation to anyone or anything else in the plot, is going to be killed. No big spoiler by giving that one away. It’s Chekhov’s gun from the first moment we see him. This had me wondering two things. One: was there more to this character originally that had been excised for time or content? And Two: was Corey Haim in this movie one of the conditions of Tiffany Shepis taking the role, given their past together, particularly around the time this was being shot. Who knows. Which brings me back to the mysterious tale of two movies.

Do Not Disturb/New Terminal Hotel Crime Scene

This is the sort of thing Director’s Commentaries were MADE for: clearing up any confusion and explaining why certain shots, bits of dialogue, character motivations, etc. are present in the film. Though the film looks incredibly nice (though the soundtrack was incredibly jarring at times), the disc didn’t include any special features so I have no way of knowing what happened with NEW TERMINAL HOTEL, and how it became DO NOT DISTURB. It is a mystery that has plagued me since I first found out about it. I wondered how I was to review a film that felt incomplete in some places, and brilliant in others. I do know that the budget for this film was somewhere around the $100,000 range which, for some of the quality casting, is a slim amount to work with. With that kind of casting and independent spirit, I really wanted to like DO NOT DISTURB, but couldn’t help wondering what happened to the film that, in 2010 caused the police to believe a set in the George Washington Hotel was an actual crime scene, the “most gruesome crime scene” Police Chief J.R. Blyth had ever seen (see photo above). So I while there were things to enjoy about DO NOT DISTURB, namely Tiffany Shepis and Ezra Buzzington’s performances, I was left feeling as though a mediocre film had a good film hidden away somewhere within its shadow.

2 Out Of 5 Skulls

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