South Korean film “Warning: Do Not Play” is a little mystery horror flick alternatively creepy and amusing for its main target audiences. While being as sinister and ominous as required, the movie often throws some wryly amusing moments to be savored, and we gladly go along with that as enjoying its several nice scary scenes.
In the beginning, the movie observes the very difficult situation of its heroine. While she once was regarded a promising new filmmaker thanks to her debut work, Mi-jeong (Seo Ye-Ji) has been struggling to write the screenplay for a horror movie to be produced, and now she is told that she must complete and then submit the screenplay within two weeks.
And then she hears about an interesting urban legend from one of her juniors. Around several years ago, there was a student film which really scared the hell out of the audiences, and, according to this tale, the guy who made this film in question claimed that the film was directed by a ghost. Becoming quite curious about this mysterious film, Mi-jeong goes to a college where that student allegedly studied, but she does not get any clue about the movie as she does not even know who that guy is.
However, of course, Mi-jeong subsequently comes across a few pieces of information about the movie. As talking with several students, she gets some background knowledge, and she also comes to learn that it was supposed to be shown at a certain well-known film festival in South Korea, but the festival archive does not have anything except its trailer – and that certainly makes her all the more curious about it.
While she keeps trying to get more information about the movie, she receives a phone call from Jae-hyeon (Jin Seon-kyu), a guy who directed the movie. When Mi-jeong meets him, he solemnly warns her that she should not delve more into what he supposedly made, and he does not say anything else besides that, though it is quite apparent that he is hiding something from her.
The mood subsequently becomes more insidious as Mi-jeong finds where Jae-hyeon lives and then sneaks into his shabby residence, which is, not so surprisingly, full of bad signs here and there. Besides lots of burning candles, there are a number of disturbing drawings on the walls, and it seems he is really afraid of whatever is associated with his movie.
It is not much of a spoiler to tell you that Mi-jeong eventually gets a chance to watch Jae-hyeon’s movie – and that she comes to feel like being disturbed and threatened by some unknown dark force. As strange things begin to happen around her, she is often reminded of a certain dark moment in her past, and then there comes a tense scene where she suddenly finds herself alone and helpless in the dark at one point later in the story.
And she gets to know more about the production history of Jae-hyeon’s movie. At that time, he and several other students tried to make the movie at an abandoned movie theater, but the movie theater has been known as a haunted place, and there is a small creepy moment shown via what Jae-hyeon briefly shot with his video camera. I later learned that the movie theater shown in the film is actually a real one which has been abandoned for years, and it goes without saying that this location brings some extra authentic insidiousness to the screen.
As slowly increasing the level of tension and creepiness on the screen, director/writer Kim Ji-won, who previously debuted with “The Butcher” (2007), keeps holding our attention with more curiosity and dread. Is there really a ghost in that movie theater? What did really happen to Jae-hyeon and his colleagues? And what is exactly going on around Mi-jeong?
While we come to muse more on these and other questions, there eventually comes a moment when we behold what is shown in Jae-hyeon’s movie, and Kim and his crew pull all the stops as Mi-jeong comes to take a fateful step into the abandoned movie theater. If you are familiar with many recent South Korean horror films, you will probably not that surprised by what is presented during the climactic sequence, but you will not be disappointed at least. Sure, there are several predictable moments to jolt you, but the overall result is as tense and scary as expected, and then you will get amused by what follows after that.
The few main cast members of the movie are effective in their respective parts. While Seo Ye-ji is engaging as a heroine who cannot help but driven her curiosity despite the sense of dread accumulating around her, Jin Seon-kyu looks suitably scared and disturbed as required, and Ji Yoon-ho is also solid in his small but crucial supporting role.
In conclusion, “Warning: Do Not Play” is an enjoyable genre piece which plays well with its familiar genre elements, and I was entertained enough during its 86-minute running time. Although it may look rather modest to you at first, it did its job as well as intended, and it will certainly remind you of how it is often hard and difficult for those horror movie directors to scare and entertain audiences out there.