Disquiet (2023) Loudly Fumbles Its Contrived Supernatural Horror Setup
First Non-Festival Release: January 27, 2023 (Limited Theatrical Release)
Director: Michael Winnick
Writer: Michael Winnick
Runtime: 85 Minutes
Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Lochlyn Munro, Elyse Levesque
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Hospitals are creepy by themselves. It’s admittedly a place where many people go but never return. What happens if you visit and then find yourself alone and trapped fighting off bizarre people and hallucinations?
This is the situation Sam (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) finds himself in as he wakes up after surviving a car accident, the fault of a drunk driver. Immediately he understands that this is no normal hospital. Within minutes he is attacked by another patient and forced to run for his life. Eventually, he runs into others fleeing the same terrifying specters. Now they must work together to leave this place before succumbing to the terror within.
Disquiet blends awful writing with poor performances to create one of the most obvious supernatural horror films of 2023.
From the get-go, it is understood that Sam, and the people he meets along the way, are not in a normal hospital. He is led to believe that he might be hallucinating as an aftereffect of the car accident and his decision to pop pain medication to numb the pain from injuries sustained from fighting off other patients and staff members. This question of reality continues for the first half of the film, comprising the bulk of arguments from the bickering survivors. As time goes on, however, Sam and the others realize that this isn’t a place where people heal.
Although half-heartedly refuted in the third act of the film, Disquiet operates as a heavy-handed metaphor for the process after death that involves souls choosing Heaven or Hell. Along the way, the crew meets people who have already died, or have found themselves trapped in the hospital’s endless mazes, unable to decide for themselves which path to take. All the while, Lily (Rachelle Goulding) tempts them into escaping into Hell, unbeknownst to them, and Virgil (Garry Chalk) pushes them to think for themselves and find their way to Heaven. The biblical implications of Lily, a.k.a. Lilith, and the quite literal take on Virgil from Dante’s Inferno aside, the Christian influence on the film is quite clear.
Instead of fleshing out its characters to present more nuanced takes on morality, Disquiet thrusts paper-thin stereotypes into its see-through mystery. From racist cop (Lochlyn Munro) to scared little girl (Mila Jones), there isn’t much depth to anyone beyond their general descriptors. This lack of development makes the inevitable reveal more lackluster, as it presents a very dichotomous way of thinking in terms of their character. This gets more confusing when characters are summed up by one or two deeds in their life, namely what took it moments before they arrived.
Even the characters with more screentime like Sam have little going for them in terms of development. Sam is described as a workaholic because he answered work calls in the morning on the way to his job, a womanizer because he cheated on his wife once, and irresponsible because he was on his phone before he got hit by a drunk driver. This is his test to determine his worthiness to enter Heaven or Hell. It would make more sense if we saw him fail more times, but throughout the film Sam makes the correct decisions, not of a man who is supposedly bad or even half-redeemable. His only faults may be his self-defense when he perceives danger, but every step of the way he tries to de-escalate, intervene, and help others. It calls into question why he was there in the first place if those decisions look so easy for him.
While the script gave them no favors, the performances across the board are underwhelming. Leading man Jonathan Rhys Meyers gives one of the wackiest fake-macho performances complete with soft grunting and blank stares at the various supernatural attacks against him and the crew. He simultaneously does not muster the necessary drive to push the film against its budget while overemoting at every opportunity in the most confounding manners. The only actors that seem to be operating at the level necessary for their roles are Rachelle Goulding for the pushy doctor Lily, Lochlyn Munro in his portrayal of a racist police officer, and Garry Chalk as the kind yet slightly condescending old man Virgil.
Despite its meager budget and rough go-around in the acting and writing department, Disquiet does have a way of creating tension. There are several moments in the film that nicely develop a sense of dread, namely when they finally reach the basement and the horrors that await them there. A few fair jump scares peppered in throughout the film give Disquiet an edge to it that keeps viewers anticipating the next reveal. It doesn’t make up for what ensues but it’s enough for a quick watch.
There isn’t much special about Disquiet that hasn’t been done before and done better in many films before it. Questions about morality and the strength to survive feel tepid by its anemic ending and the horror bits are not enough to satisfy its overall lackluster story. Throw in some rough performances and spotty design choices and Disquiet becomes a chore to see through its end. While it certainly won’t be a choice to rewatch for this reviewer, ultimately the choice to watch comes down to you. Choose wisely.
Overall Score? 3/10