By the way, am I the only one who fins it hilarious that the Japanese word for "Audition" is "Ôdishon"? It's spelled and pronounced the same way Jerry Lewis would have said it while doing a really offensive Japanese impression, back in the 1960s. Is it racist to laugh at something because you realize it's racist? I hope not.
Audition begins with Shigeharu (Ryo Ishibashi) playing the part of a hard-working widower. He spends time with his teenage son, Shigehiko(Tetsu Sawaki), and they clearly care about each other, but...well, they're dudes, and dudes don't talk touchy-feely stuff. Especially in Japan's emotionally conservative culture. Still, they're as affectionate as they can be, although it often takes the form of awkwardness.
|"Thanks Dad, I had hoped you would say something creepy tonight"|
|"We're looking for women who like having their aspirations toyed with"|
|Even without the mystery sack, this shot creeps me out|
|The store she shops at is Crazy Mart, and she cleaned them out|
Audition is fairly unique among modern horror movies because it takes its time. It's not just that the movie has a slow pace, either (although it does). The entire movie builds up to the last fifteen minutes. Up until that point, Audition feels more like a romance than a horror film. If it wasn't for the single scene of Asami waiting for the phone to ring (and the reaction of the monster in her burlap bag), the last act would be a complete shock. But with that single, short, bizarre scene, Audition whets your appetite and the suspense starts to build. Most of the time, when a movie builds the suspense for over an hour, the payoff is a little underwhelming. Not when the movie is a horror film from director Takashi Miike, though. Miike is known for his absolutely ludicrous movies, and he doesn't skimp out with Audition.
|To give you an idea of the horror, tongue injections are "the good old days" in Audition|
|This is her reaction to dismemberment|
Audition hits a little close to home for me, because one of my greatest fears is that I will somehow upset a crazy woman. I know it's an irrational fear, because I'm a nice guy and I've married a woman who probably wouldn't torture me to death, but movies about batshit-crazy, take-no-prisoners, nothing-left-to-lose ladies freak me the hell out. Just thinking about the end of this movie makes me want to buy something nice for my wife, just to extend my miserable existence a few more days.
|I probably won't buy her needles, though. Just in case.|
If you do not want to see a movie with freakishly believable torture in it, you might want to skip Audition. The scenes are deceptively gory; you might flinch or close your eyes in those last few scenes, but there is actually very little gore in this film. There is a high WTF quotient, though.
|Case in point|
|First clue: she ordered a glass of Homicidal Psycho Bitch on draft|
As much as I legitimately love/hate the payoff to all the buildup in this film, there are some issues with Audition. The biggest is probably the abrupt way it ends; it's believable, but I was hoping for something to top the craziness that is the last fifteen minutes of the movie. The other is the symbolic dream sequence that occurs just before the torture. While I like its symbolism, it is fairly inconsistent by Western standards. If it had stuck to revelations and insights into the characters, it would be fine. However, it lets Shigeharu discover some clues that he could never have uncovered outside of the dream world, and I thought that cheapened the payoff. Thankfully, the revelations were really, truly weird, disgusting, and totally worth fitting into the film however they could, but there had to be a better way to do it. Japan seems to have a greater lenience for unexplained psychic phenomenon in their horror films, but that just felt out of place.
|Kind of like asking "Do you like torture?" in an interview --- out of place, but probably worthwhile|
As good as I think Audition is --- there are few movies that can build up to a single scene so effectively --- I can't say that it is a particularly fun movie to watch. Of course, that's not the intent, I know. But...I really mean it. This movie makes me uncomfortable. Part of it is the crazy lady core, and part of it is the torture, but I think it also has to do with the first hour. I love how effective Miike is at building the tension, but he doesn't really give the audience a good picture of these characters in the first hour. Shigeharu and his son are too good to be true, and we learn that in the dream sequence (for Shigeharu, anyway). I think keeping Asami a mystery is a good choice, but making Shigeharu a genuinely compelling character instead of a fairly generic nice guy would have pushed Audition from "effective" to "fantastic."