Directed by Jon James Smith Starring Kathryn Leeman, Ron McMahon, and Richard Shelton Short Film Review by Owen Herman
Written and directed by Jon James Smith, Do Not Disturb is a taut and tense thriller that attempts to confuse and surprise the audience at every possible moment. This goal is certainly not an easy one, but this short achieves it spectacularly.
The story begins with a husband calling his wife and lying to her about staying late at work. Your initial expectations of this setup are immediately thrown out the window as the plot navigates through as many twists and turns as it can through its fourteen-minute runtime (spoiler, it’s a lot). Seemingly every scene is a twist that dramatically shifts your opinions and predictions of the plot. Every line of dialogue, camera movement, or cut could potentially reveal new and astonishing information. Every sudden storyshift also leads to subtle, but clever, change in genre. Elements of horror seep in early on, before a detective murder mystery takes over. On the IMDB page for Do Not Disturb it references both Hitchcock and Fincher, and both influences are easy to see; the suspenseful and twisting tale feels very Hitchcock, while Fincher clearly inspires the style and visuals.
Despite the constant plot twists, the short manages to remain simple in its storytelling and never gets convoluted or confusing. Because of this it is always clear what’s going on, so the viewer can remain invested in the story. This also helps stop the short feeling too gimmicky, it could have easily felt like an exercise as opposed to a fully fleshed out film. It is a perfect example of how to reveal the exact amount of information in a scene needed for the scene to work; there is never too much going on to distract and there is always just enough to keep the mystery going.
The short film also feels very professional, perhaps because of its clear influences. The cinematography is smart, the editing is smooth, and all the performances are solid, with Kathryn Leeman being the stand-out.
Do Not Disturb takes classic thriller tropes and uses them to construct a clever, but still familiar, film. The suspenseful music, dark tone, themes of lies and deception, and untrustworthy characters are all inspired by other films of the genre, leading to a sense of familiarity. However, it is because of this familiarity that the twists can subvert your expectations and ultimately shock you.