In WARNING: DO NOT PLAY, Mi-Jung (Ye-ji Seo) is a horror filmmaker in search of her next story. With only two weeks to deliver a script before her development deal falls through, the young writer begins to investigate the urban legend of a student film so frightening it caused chaos – and even a heart attack – at its premiere. But the salacious story doesn’t stop there. Rumor has it the picture was actually created by a ghost that killed the production’s crew before making the movie herself.
Unfortunately, while there is plenty of lore surrounding the feature, there aren’t many facts. The filmmakers, and even the movie’s name, seem to be lost. The only clue Mi-Jung has is the name of the school the doomed film team attended.
Things become increasingly spooky as Mi-Jung dives deeper into the mystery. Turns out the film was selected for a festival, but the screening was canceled. When she finally tracks down the director, the terrified Jae-Hyun (Seon-Kyu Jin) demands she forget the film and start “going to church.” Even the movie itself – when she finally gets ahold of it – appears to be a “making of” documentary rather than the fabled horror film.
As the lines between real life and the film she’s hunting began to blur, Mi-Jung finds herself faced with increasing threats both tactile and supernatural.
WARNING: DO NOT PLAY is a terrific story that deftly expands on modern ghost tales and found footage film tropes to create something fresh. Writer/director Kim Jin-won‘s love of the genre is on full display as the story zooms around every twist and turn. The central mystery is compelling and keeps you leaning forward as Mi-Jung’s efforts uncover increasingly horrifying details of just what happened to the makers of this enigmatic movies. There’s really not a dull moment in the eight-six minute runtime.
Along with cinematographer Young-soo Yoon, Kim creates some breathtaking images that will stick with you. One of the standout sequences comes when the supernatural elements first take hold. Kim and Yoon raise the visual stakes by balancing the stark white light of a camera phone with saturated reds and blues that would make Dario Argento proud. Indeed, red and blue are a subtle theme throughout this movie, with red acting as a surrogate for the menacing force unknowingly seeping into the protagonist’s life.
But it’s not just the colors that are captivating. The best images in a ghost story are ones that recreate that gut-dropping moment when a shadowy outline tricks the brain into seeing a human form that isn’t there. It’s an important shot to nail, and Kim captures it perfectly.
Ye-ji Seo carries the film effortlessly as the plucky horror-loving Mi-Jung; while Seon-Kyu Jin’s performance as the film-within-a-film’s director will leave you just as shaken as any spectral threat.
So should you put WARNING: DO NOT PLAY on your must-watch list? I think so. Just be forewarned. As Mi-Jung so perfectly says, “It’s a horror film, so definitely not a happy ending.”
WARNING: DO NO PLAY will premiere on Shudder Thursday, June 11, 2020.