AMJEON AKA WARNING: DO NOT PLAY
Writer and Director: Kim Jin-won
Starring: Seo Ye-ji, Jin Seon-kyu, Kim Bo-ra, Ji Yoon-ho, Cha Yub, Tae-boo Nam, Kim Do-geon
“There was a horror film that saved my life.”
Imagine that you had the opportunity to create the most frightening film ever made. Would you want to live with the consequences? In Warning: Do Not Play (2019), Park Mi-jung, played by Seo Ye-ji (Remembering First Love, The Bros), is an aspiring horror film screenwriter struggling to find ideas for her next script. After hearing the urban legend of the most terrifying film ever made, Mi-jung devotes herself to searching for it in the hopes of finding inspiration.
According to the legend, the film was directed by a film student as a final project. Upon the film’s debut, the audience fled the theater screaming, and one person died of a heart attack. After a series of bizarre mishaps that end with Mi-Jung stealing the forbidden film from its unhinged human director, Mi-jung comes face to face with the ghost responsible for the film’s creation.
Mi-jung learns that the ghost at the center of the film is responsible for the murder of the film’s entire crew. However, this grisly revelation does not stop Mi-Jung from using the footage of her own interactions with the ghost to create her film. The final scene ends with the suggestion that this ghost will haunt Mi-jung as the price of her success as a horror filmmaker.
Despite being a movie about the scariest film in the world, Warning: Do Not Play is not frightening. If not for the jump scares and gory scenes sprinkled throughout the film, the plot might easily have been more of a horror-comedy than the more serious plot that is intended. The movie could have been improved by not showing viewers the footage from “the scariest film ever made.” Leaving the audience to fill in the details of the film with their own imaginations would create greater fear and suspense than building up expectations only to reveal footage that is not all that scary.
Another opportunity ignored by the film is certain briefly mentioned details that could have made the movie more interesting if explored in greater depth. For instance, there is a scene in which Mi-jung watches a clip in which the director, Kim Jae-hyun, played by Jin Seon-kyu (The Outlaws, Extreme Job), explains why he went into making horror movies. Jae-hyun describes how he was bullied at a young age and had to go to the hospital to recover from the abuse. While in the hospital, he watches The Exorcist (1973) and found the experience to be so life-changing that he decided to devote the rest of his life to making horror films. That random bit of biography from a minor character was more interesting than what was supposed to be the central plot. But alas, the story quickly moved past Jae-hyun onto a drawn-out and uninteresting series of tropes.
The concept of horrifying revelations in found footage has been successfully used in a variety of movies, such as The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and Trollhunter. In Warning: Do Not Play, however, the film at the center of the story is anticlimactic and makes the movie more boring than it already is.