in Shocktober

Audition (1999)

The last time I saw Audition I didn’t like it. I felt the film started promising, building like a taught Hitchcockian thriller, before descending into a full-on vomit-a-thon. This was five or six years ago. Flash forward to earlier yesterday when I tried to watch the film once more. Again, I loved the first half of the film, but the climax? I liked. It’s still vomit inducing, but I get it now. It helped knowing how the events of the film were going to play out this time. Now I know this film needs the shift in style to hammer home its themes. Audition is a film about objectification and how all of us can become victims… and predators.

Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) is a white collar, middle-aged man still coping with the death of his wife. Encouraged to get back into the dating scene by his film producer friend Yasuhisa (Jun Kunimura), the two set up a mock casting audition to find the perfect woman. Going through woman after woman auditioning for the “part” of the wife, Shigeharu is instantly taken by Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina), a soft spoken former ballerina. Next we witness an iconic scene of Asami waiting days after the audition by a phone and a large sack in an empty room. The sack rustles violently and immediately we know something is wrong. Someone is in the sack and Asami is obsessed.

I don’t want to spoil much, but if you’ve read this far you can probably guess Asami has some violent tendencies. Little of this is seen until the film’s end, which involves everything from chopping off fingers, to eating vomit, to new uses for piano wire. It’s hard to stomach, but this is what makes the film so scary. Asami has been a victim her whole life and after Shigeharu’s dishonesty she finally takes control. The problem is years of being mistreated have warped her. Because of this she only knows one way to get control, and it ain’t pretty. A horror movie should scare and upset you. I think the reason I find this one even more upsetting is because you care for Shigeharu. He’s a nice man, he’s a father, he’s made a couple of mistakes but has good intentions. Seeing him go through devastating events makes the viewer upset because it feels so undeserved. The important part is the film ends on a satisfying note.

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I’ve only seen a few Takashi Miike films, but I will say the man has a knack for making skin crawl. Miike isn’t afraid of showing you torture straight on, often accompanied by a bizarre sense of dark humor. He pushes buttons, but usually they’re the right ones. We’re talking about a guy so twisted his episode of Masters of Horror was pulled from airing for its graphic content, and this is Showtime we’re talking about. As for Audition, it’s a great film finding a unique balance between mystery/thriller and full on body horror. Just remember to bring old pukey, that’s what I call my vomit bag.