The texture of a film like “Hostel” takes place on the assumption that the journey could be one of adventure and slight mystery before turning it into a cage of horrors. “Yummy”, a Midnighter that was supposed to play SxSW 2020 this year and was acquired by Shudder, has some interesting ideas. It starts off with a bang almost guaranteeing a rock n’ roll splatter fest set in a plastic surgery hospital gone wrong on the back roads of Eastern Europe’s crumbling facade. The humor initially has possibilities especially with the pre-credit sequence but just a simple path of that black comedy is not enough since it keys into a straighter line as the film goes on. The film by trying to be tongue in cheek takes itself almost too seriously. The plot follows a man and his girlfriend as well as her mother who are going to this “cheap” hospital to get some work done. The girlfriend is getting a breast reduction which the film tries to turn into the running joke of the piece. The boyfriend is a med school drop out who is awkward and gets sick at the sight of blood. The girls in the hospital are all beautiful but in a plastic way which is an interesting paradox whether this is just where the film was shot or it was a play on the beauty myth overall. It is never quite clear though this idea seems part of it. The aspect of beauty against the decay is striking.
The story devolves into a more simple approach with the reality of the “virus” per se which is vague in so many ways. Of course the flash point is caused by those from outside which begs the question why it would have never happened before. The characters are unique enough in their idiosyncrasies (like maybe a backwards “Poseidon”). The orderly plays to a trope but turns out to be more diabolical which is not altogether unexpected. The actual side effects of what is going on to the people seems to change over the course of the film. Shots at many times are done more for the fact they look cool or at least passable. One scene that functions like the “Jurassic Park” inlay in the cooler works well for what the viewer thinks will happen. The rabbit hole it goes down slaps back at slick fantasy horror scenarios. While not unique per se, it definitely would have gotten cheers at the Lamar in Austin. The eventual resolution works beautifully because it is just that direct. While the idea of what might be befall this world of the movie is insulated, the intelligence of the characters as well as their losing of limbs and digits regularly makes one feel that their fates were sealed long before.
By Tim Wassberg
The aspect of a film within a film concept is almost as old as the medium itself. While its progression has certainly become more meta in recent years, the concept still gets to the crucial aspect of the Id and what it means to created. The aspect in horror simply always comes down to how far an artist is willing to go for their art and the requisite harm it does. The thing about South Korean horror is that it has always led the way since there is a balance of old school superstition and modern perspective that revels in that culture. This is why in the early 2000s every film that was getting a remake was based on South Korean horror. Granted this inlay within “Warning: Do Not Play” has a bit of “The Ring” to it. Instead of a TV screen it is an old movie theater where a film was once shot and by extension a play. And there is a film that doesn’t want to be found that was pulled from a film festival that the protagonist is searching for. It is that conceit that plays into the journey here. But unlike South Korean films of yesterday, the balance of the lead female is changing.
There is a dexterity in the lead character here and yet a regression of sorts as well. It perhaps is less shown outwardly but the internal battle is still raging. Not that it is necessarily in the fact that she is female. There is a certain trauma that is based into her journey and why she does what she does. This element in many ways is left up to the audience for their own personification of why but it less affects the male counterpart that comes before her. The torture of the self is still the same but perhaps from a different mindset. While the theater is a construct, it has been used before. What is instead, more compelling and dark, it is her exploration at a broken person’s domicile that creates a sense of the darkness. It is like a reverse “Irreversible”. She is peering into is psyche which he himself cannot break down. This is what the horror has done to him. The imagery is there and yet the terror is more internal. The story does take a reflective turn at one point outside a time and space perspective. The idea of who the monster is and where it begins and ends is an interesting progression as is the perspective of light and dark.
This is a slight play on what entertainment can be in the modern world. Some is done for art. Some is done for commerce and yet the idea is it a simple reflection of ourselves. This is what the character here is indeed striving for. She is searching for that story that has never been told but yet where is the mirror or boundary she holds up for herself. She seems extremely detached even in the moment that she herself is being threatened. She can only experience it through the visual of her phone which is of course part of the film’s meaning. There is one character that is seemingly left out in the cold metaphorically but is never redeemed. That can be the beauty of a film like ths. Is it the idea of a morality or a play on certain details in the nature of human behavior.
By Tim Wassberg