Director: Shane Ryan
Cast: Kai Lanette, Shane Ryan, Joanna Angel, Molly Wryn
Alter Ego Cinema / NTSC Region 1 / Unrated / 1.78:1 Widescreen / Surround / Color – B&W / 115 minutes / PURCHASE
There are some subjects that filmmakers tend shy away from for fear of backlash and/or ridicule; racism, alternative sexuality, mental illness, etc. And there are are other subjects, darker and more taboo subjects, that even the most maverick of filmmakers won’t touch. At the top of that list almost has to be pedophilia, which is defined as “a psychological disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a sexual preference for prepubescent children”. Not only would this particular material get people’s hackles up and no doubt make people look at the director/writer/producer sideways, but it would be very hard to shoot in any “real” way. Of course there is the off-screen, alluded to, “oh, we could never show a child that way” train of thought that Mr. Made-for-Lifetime TV may take. But to make a gritty, real-life, emotional film about the horrible subject matter would take some real balls. And to add to that, making the movie from the pedophile’s point of view would take XXL balls. Well Shane Ryan and his extra-extra large testicles have done just that.
Echo is a twelve year old girl who is in love with Malachi, an 18 year old guy who feels the same way about her. Even though they both swear they have never had sex or done anything inappropriate, he is arrested and thrown in prison for fucking a minor. We meet up with Echo three years into his sentence and we see that she has turned into a troubled teenager who gets gang-raped, believes she is pregnant from the assault, and is thrown out of her parent’s home for being a troublemaker. A year and a half later, when she is sixteen, we learn that she has hardened and learned the ways of the streets; selling her body, shoplifting and doing what she must to survive. After the six years are up and Echo has turned 18 (re: legal), Malachi comes back to town and the two meet up only to be met with struggles and hardships that come with being a convicted child rapist and the time apart that may have torn them apart.
I don’t even know how to begin to give my thoughts on this film. So let me start by saying that WARNING!!! is not your typical exploitation movie. There is no gratuitous nudity for shits and giggles. No nods and winks to other movies or cheesy chuckles. There is nothing here to give you any hope that humanity isn’t a warped and judgmental shit pile. Shane Ryan along with writing collaborator Kai Lanette – who also plays “Echo” – have created an unsettling, thought provoking, minimalistic and visually/aurally striking movie that grabs you by the guts and won’t let go. The direction and cinematography work hand-in-hand with the editing that uses filters, colors, blurs and zooms to convey the starkness of the story at hand. You would think that a woman in her mid-20s would be a ridiculous choice to play a young pre-teen/teenage girl but Kai Lanette is haunting as the tortured Echo. I want to give her a big hug and tell her everything is going to be okay just thinking about her in the movie. She is fucking brilliant. And the (assumed) original score could not have been bleaker or more effective. The only bad thing I can think to say about it is that the dialogue tends to get buried in some spots, but I’ll take that any day in such a film.
All of that being said, I have to say – as I’ve pointed out with other films like the August Underground trilogy – I will probably never watch WARNING!!! again. It’s just too fucking real and emotional. Too wrenching and harsh. The majority of the story is told through visuals with very little dialogue which, subconsciously, really fucks with you in more of a base way. I still can’t get some of the scenes out of my head. Damn you Shane and Kai! If you are looking for a good-time flick with giggling, big-titted bimbos, fun, over-the-top violence and gore, look somewhere else. But if you want to be challenged by what I can only classify as “art-house” exploitation, please support filmmakers with GIANT cajones like Shane Ryan and co. and pick this disk up.