Directors and filmmakers coming together to create a collaborative piece is nothing new. We’ve seen it before, most notably in the horror genre. However, in Mali Elfman’s “Do Not Disturb” we’re given a more dramatic approach as we watch five short stories unfold from five different directors.
All five stories are told seamlessly by being interwoven into a story arch that spans a hotel, more specifically, room 316. The film focuses on a small group of women that make up room services for the third floor. One of the women, (“The Maid,” played by Diva Zappa) who is seen as more of an outcast, spends her free time hiding out in the hotel’s basement where she spies audibly on the occupant’s of room 316 via hidden baby monitor.
This aspect of the movie is kept to the background, and serves only to tie all five stories together. The viewer isn’t given much information or reason to connect with the maid, but it does work in making the movie feel like a complete package rather than what could have been a random assortment of short films.
The first of the five is “Duccio’s Madonna.” In this story, we find a man who hires a hooker to help him fulfill a strange role-play fantasy. Rather than put her sex toys and sexual talents to the test, he requests he lay in bed as she stands at his side reading out a eulogy to his own funeral. It’s definitely dark, but has its moments of comedy (which the film sporadically sprinkles throughout) and sets the tone for the film.
Things get weird with the second occupant’s of room 316 in “Rocketman.” This story stars Eric Balfour (Skyline, and director of the previous short), who is playing an astronaut who comes back to Earth to spend a romantic evening with his wife. He’s acting a bit strange since being back, and has a close guard on a mysterious silver brief case. Of the five stories, this one felt like it could have benefited the most from having a larger budget as it takes some sci-fi twists and turns.
In “Prom” we watch classmates from the south interact with one another in room 316. Things get awkward when the school’s football star must share a room with an openly gay schoolmate, but as the night continues you learn the two may have more in common with each other than they thought. It’s a story of seeing the two sides of being ‘in the closet’ and ‘out of the closet.’ While one could argue this story has the least amount of visual flare, the long one-shots used help captivate the viewer and holds their attention during the conversation heavy piece.
My favorite of the five “Intrinsic” shows a couple who’ve just met looking for a night of fun, only for the man to find out there’s more to the woman than he thought. This story manages to tell the most interesting of the stories, while also blending in the overall story the best, by cleverly utilizing the maid character.
The final short “Death Takes A Holiday Inn” blends where the previous left off, and also ties in its own wacky story together, and provides a conclusion for the maid character as well. While I wasn’t a fan of the super-natural element it holds, I can definitely see many viewers enjoying it. It does a good job at attempting to tell its own story, while maintaining the rest and giving the viewer an ‘ending.’
I’m not sure what mainstream appeal “Do Not Disturb” could have on an audience, but it’s cool to see some upcoming filmmakers, and even semi-solidified actors take a turn at stepping behind the camera. Being in the industry myself, I am surrounded by a lot of independent cinema, and I have seen some very bad films, and a few gems. Comparing it to similar features, I can say there is a definite level of polish that is often missed by independent films. The acting is good enough, it’s well shot, and there’s also a wonderful score from Danny Elfman (thanks to his daughters involvement). But even with this polish, the film as a whole doesn’t ever reach a height that would make it memorable.
I would have loved to see the overall story arch glue the five shorts together better, and for the maid character to be implemented more throughout to deliver a stronger overall experience to the film, but as it is now, I felt as if it all amassed to a rather bland viewing. I felt like I was watching more of a student’s reel than a movie. The potential is definitely there, (most notably in all of the filmmaker’s writing/directing) but due to the weak ‘hub’ that ties everything together, it keeps “Do Not Disturb” from reaching that ‘gem’ status. It’s worth mentioning each director was given 8 rules to adhere to, and only a single day to shoot. So if you’re seeking out something different, or a film student interested in seeing other first-timers step up to the plate, you may find something to like here.