REVIEW: 'Warning: Do Not Play' tries to be meta but ends up confusing

Marcus Goh

PHOTO: mm2 Entertainment

SINGAPORE — A film about a director who's making a film may sound a tad indulgent, but that's the basic premise of Warning: Do Not Play. Of course, it features a director who's painfully hipster in appearance, who seems like an idealised projection of the writer-director of Warning: Do Not Play. With a premise that sounds more suited for an art film than a horror film (although it could be both), the movie promises much but delivers something else entirely.

PHOTO: mm2 Entertainment

The film centres on struggling director Mi-Jung (Seo Yea-Ji) who learns of a legendary horror film and goes on a quest to unearth it and find the director of that film, who seems to have gone insane. However, she finds out that there may be some truth in his incoherent ramblings, and finds herself getting pulled into circumstances that led to the creation of the horror film.

PHOTO: mm2 Entertainment

Being a horror movie affords the chance for interesting and metaphorical visuals, which the film has in spades. It's an interesting bit of artistry, especially when the story goes off on a figurative tangent and blurs the line between reality and the imagination of the characters. The visuals are enjoyable, but the story gets lost in the process. The film can get very disjointed at times, especially when it comes to the horror scenes.

PHOTO: mm2 Entertainment

However, the horror scenes are relatively limited, being left mainly for the third act and to open the film. The bulk of the movie is actually a mystery, one in which Mi-Jung solves (sort of) by finding the creator of the film she's been looking for. It's probably better categorised as a mystery rather than as horror, given that you're not really that scared for most of the film.

PHOTO: mm2 Entertainment

Main character Mi-Jung looks unlike any director you've ever seen (which is good), but bears all the mannerisms and neuroticisms of one (which isn't). Perhaps that's why in the story, she projects herself into a character in the film that she's making, as her friend points out. Ironically, it seems like exactly what the actual director of Warning: Do Not Play did with Mi-Jung, which makes it a rather meta reference to be had. Then you have the two fictional films in the movie itself — the one that Mi-Jung is looking for, and the one that she creates, Both of them are titled Warning: Do Not Play, in a very circular, self-referential bit of titling.

PHOTO: mm2 Entertainment

You do empathise with Mi-Jung over time though, partly due to her portrayal as a nervous wreck who has great faith in her vision for a movie, but isn't quite sure what that vision is. She's a difficult character to play, but Seo Yea-Ji manages to pull it off and express the different facets of her character over the course of the movie. Mi-Jung's misplaced faith also mirrors the direction of Warning: Do Not Play itself — you can't quite shake the fact that the overall direction of the movie is murky, at best.

PHOTO: mm2 Entertainment

Despite its short runtime, there are some very lengthy, sleep-inducing scenes which could have been trimmed for time. These differ from the talking heads scenes, which do discuss some fairly intriguing topics. But as a movie that borders on arthouse, it's inevitable that some indulgent scenes would have creeped their way in — which they did.

PHOTO: mm2 Entertainment

Warning: Do Not Play is more of a mystery movie than anything else, with some horror elements. It can be a little interesting thanks to its more artistic bent, but it loses its direction trying to be meta at times. By being arthouse, it becomes confusing, which isn't the best thing for a horror movie to be.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? No.

Score: 3.2/5

Running time: 86 min

Secret ending? No.

Warning: Do Not Play is a Korean mystery movie with horror elements.

It is directed and written by Kim Jin-Won. It stars Seo Yea-Ji (Mi Jung), Jin Sun-Kyu (Jae-Hyun), Kim Bo-Ra (Ji Soo), and Cha Yub (Cha Kwang-Bae). It is rated NC-16.

Warning: Do Not Play opens in cinemas:
- 29 August, 2019 (Singapore)
- 5 September, 2019 (Malaysia)

Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter who writes for “Crimewatch”, as well as popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Code of Law”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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