Shudder, AMC’s premiere streaming service for horror, thrillers, the supernatural and more has been expanding its Korean horror (K-horror) library on the platform every month with offerings that have shown hauntings and monsters. Now, with their latest South Korean Shudder Original Warning: Do Not Play, written and directed by Kim Jin-won, the platforms gains a perspective jumping feature that offers up jump scares and mystery to keep horror fans engaged.
In Warning: Do Not Play, aspiring director Mi-jung (Seo Ye-ji) struggles to come up with ideas for a new horror film until her friend Jun-seo (Ji Yoon-ho) tells her about a mysterious film rumored to be shot by a ghost. While researching it, she begins to write a new screenplay about her hunt for this “ghost film,” chronicling her search and channeling the mystery into something creative and her own. But as she gets closer to the truth, the line between her film and her life begins to blur and the layers of horror begin to unfold.
Now, haunted videos aren’t a new concept, especially in Asian horror, but Warning: Do Not Play uses this plot to build out a story that unwinds into narrative that spans three different perspectives. The first is through Mi-jung and her search for the truth behind the infamous ghost film named “Warning.” This is shot like a traditional horror film and is filled with the trappings of a ghost story as Mi-jung works to find out if the scariest horror film ever made really exists.
When she finds the film, the story shifts perspective and transports the audience into the heart of the cursed story. Kim uses found footage to put you directly in the thick of it, with a shot reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project’s iconic moment facing the wall, the reality of the danger becomes clear. In shifting from a traditional film to found footage, there is a depth to the film added not only visually, but narratively. This is enhanced when the footage may not be as “found” as Mi-jun believes.
The final perspective of Warning: Do Not Play, comes at the end of the film, and presents Mi-jun’s final work, her film, her story. It’s here how we learn about the true ending and get to see her as an auteur in the worst sense of the world. This film within a film complicates the audience’s relationship with the protagonist and showcases the depth of her obsession with filmmaking and success. This undercurrent of noir obsession is wonderfully showcased in every act, a slow spiral down into the truth until nothing is left but an answer no one was expecting.
As Mi-jun, Seo is wonderful. She plays the role of final girl in a way that makes you root for her, the role of a make-shift detective with an obsession in a way that makes you worry for her, and finally she embodies an auteur in a way that makes you scared. The ability of Seo to showcase each emotion and reaction that these different areas of her character need is what marks this film as something more than just a fun fright. Seo flexes her acting muscle and the narrative is strengthened by it, especially in the films big reveal.
Overall, Warning: Do Not Play is yet another phenomenal addition to Shudder’s Original line-up. The film delivers moments of violence, moments to push you back in your seat, and others to make you jump. Additionally, Kim shows their knowledge of horror, by using tropes just to subvert them and create a film even more interesting than a simple curse or haunting. With a winding narrative and shifting perspectives, this film works on multiple levels and Seo carries the film to great heights.
Warning: Do Not Play
Warning: Do Not Play is yet another phenomenal addition to Shudder’s Original line-up. The film delivers moments of violence, moments to push you back in your seat, and others to make you jump. Additionally, Kim shows their knowledge of horror, by using tropes just to subvert them and create a film even more interesting than a simple curse or haunting. With a winding narrative and shifting perspectives, this film works on multiple levels and Seo carries the film to great heights.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.