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Saturday, June 13, 2020

Review: Warning: Do Not Play

Director: Kim Ji-won
Screenplay: Kim Ji-won
Year: 2020

South Korea has had a mean streak of pumping out excellent horror movies. “Monstrum”, the last of these, shares with the one that interests us now that they are Shudder originals. However, streaks are meant to end, and this is what “Warning: Do Not Play” came to do. 

A young movie director is trying to find some inspiration to break the creative block that is preventing her from working on her next script. In this search, she comes into an urban legend about the scariest movie ever made and its backstory of being the product of a vengeful ghost. The young director becomes obsessed with this story and starts to investigate all that is related to the story. 

Mi-Jung (Ye-ji Seo; “Lawless Lawyer”), the young director, has forged the goal of getting to know all she can about this movie, which takes her to meet the director that is credited for it. The director shows to be clearly affected by the movie and asks Mi-Jung that she forgets about it, which she obviously ignores. While she continues to uncover details about the movie, she starts witnessing what this evil force is capable of doing. 

As interesting as the premise in which this movie is based might sound like and as interesting as the opening scene is, “Warning: Do Not Play” finds the way to slowly deflate as it gets deeper into its plot. An important part of making this happen is the script from Kim Ji-won (“The Butcher”), who also directs the movie. With this, I don’t want to imply that it is a bad script, but it is a complex one to the extent of making it difficult to tie together the different events that are taking place and keeps the viewer confused (in a bad way) through its full runtime, while at the same time it gives the feel like is one of those movies that you need to watch a few times for being able to understand it. 

In the visual aspect “Warning: Do Not Play” looks great and the violent and scary scenes are well done, as well as the sound aspect is well used to suggest events that are not necessarily shown on screen. However, the ghost was not used to its full potential and the jump scares that are employed are not as scary as they are intended to be. Where this director better handles himself is in the tense ambient and the anticipation he created in them, which is intensified by the great acting of Ye-ji Seo in the protagonist role.

“Warning: Do Not Play” uses the Asian horror movie about a vengeful ghost clichĂ© giving it a unique twist by centering it around a haunted theater. The movie has good potential, but the plot is complex and can feel dry if you are not able to tie the loose ends of its story. Certainly, this is the sort of movie that requires to be watched more than once to be able to catch and understand all the details that the plot complicates, but it might not be interesting enough for investing the amount of time it asks for.

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