Earlier this month I reviewed the 1998 Japanese horror sensation that was “Ringu”, and I commented on how that film launched a new wave of horror for Western audiences commonly referred to as J-horror. However, as I’ve also stated in past reviews this month, the 1990’s was the age of the “human monster”. As such, when the millennium conclude, Japan released yet another game changing horror film revolving around something more terrifying then the clichéd decade girl with a face covered by long black hair. It was shortly after the success of “Ringu” that the Japanese company called Omega Project bought the rights to Ryu Murakami’s novel “Audition”, in hopes that it would be yet another breakthrough. Low and behold, the 1999 movie “Audition” (Odishion) wasn’t just another big hit, it reworked the horror genera, gave it a new face, and is often cited as one of the greatest horror movies of all time. Now the film admittedly didn’t get recognition until it premiered at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in 2000, and because of this, some would labile this film as a product of the 2000’s. Well, it still initially came out at the tail end of 1999, so I still felt the need to include “Audition” in my series of classic 90’s horror movie reviews. Now I’ll admit that while I loved “Ringu”, I don’t have the same feelings for “Audition”, and I personally hated the changes that the horror genera would go through after this film.
Our movie begins with the tragedy of a dyeing wife, leaving a massive void in the lives of her son and especially her husband, who's a TV producer named Shigeharu Aoyama. Seven years later, life seems to be on track again, but something empty is still hovering above the widowed husband. Both his son and friends insist that he try finding another girl, as maybe that may give his life some happy balance again. It’s suggested by his co-worker that they stage auditions for a new film project, when in reality, these will be auditions to meet a possible new partner in life. Before the phony auditions are even completed, our producer singles out a young girl name Asami, due to the emotional depth listed on her Resume. She too had a tragic loose of sorts, but Asami’s love for life allowed her to move on despite the hardships, which our producer takes great affection toward. A relationship inevitably ensues between the two, and all seems well at first. However, while he’s head over heels for this lovely femme fatale, all his friends have a sneaking suspicion that something about her just isn’t right. As the two continue dating, dark secrets of this girls past begin to surface, which not only affects the relationship, but our producer soon finds himself in great danger from a mental case who tends to torture people on date night.
Even though I don’t like this film ... at all really, I do still have some positive things to address. I like the premise overall, and think it’s a great warning story of the dangers of hastily getting into a relationship with someone new. This is especially relevant today with the increase of online dating, and the dangers of thinking you know someone without seeing what’s beneath the surface. The movie is also directed with great class by Takashi Miike. The way he sets up certain shots is actually quiet inspiring, and I especially love the direction and set-up of Asami’s audition scene. While I find the movie to be kind boring overall, I do think that select moments were well passed to let the emotion of the moment sink in. I also liked many of the early clues to Asami’s darker side, especially the very first shot of her apartment room, in which we see the startling image of an overstuffed bag in the middle of the room. The revelations as to what's inside that mysterious bag is nothing short of horrific. Finally, I do admire the miss-direction of the film, masking its true intentions behind a wall of Melodrama. Director Takashi Miike once said that “The directors who scare me the most are the ones who carefully hide the aggression in the background and don’t show it directly”. “Audition” never sets itself up as a grotesque horror movie, instead it feels like a psychological, romantic drama of sorts. That is until we get to the third act, when all the horror comes out in full force.
Even though I wasn’t exactly enjoying the movie up to the third act, I was at least admiring the overall craft of the film. Once the horror comes into play, everything else just goes downhill for me. Both the edits and the linier story telling becomes a jumbled mess, to the point where I can no longer tell what’s real, what’s a dream, what’s a memory or what’s “what” any more. There’s suddenly these random filtered color effects, odd imagery, and it starts to resemble a weird art house film. Then of course the movie ends with an absolutely horrific torture scene. This climax, intentional or not was a big influence on the modern day torture genera. In other words, it’s largely because of “Audition” that we have movies like “Saw”, “The Devil’s Rejects”, “Wolf Creek” and “Hostel”. To be as fair as possible, “Audition” really isn’t what you’d call “torture porn”, in fact, it’s far more disturbing in concept then what the movie actually shows on screen. Like “Misery” before it, the torture is just one scene and not the focus of the whole film, and there really aren’t any gory money shots either. It is still pretty darn intense to watch, and will make you itch all over.
So how does “Audition” really hold up? Well ... I honestly still don’t care much for it. I don’t hate the movie, it just dose very little for me. I can only give “Audition” partial credits for being competently made, raising awareness to “stranger dating”, and even some of the films themes revolving around “life” aren’t that bad. This just isn’t a movie I’d care to spend my time watching, heck even the first time I saw this film I made sure I was ironing my cloths, just to make me feel like I was doing something productive. It has a legacy, and I suppose it was something unique for the horror genera back in the 90’s, but if you’re really eager to see an unsettling Japanese thriller, I’d strongly recommend “Ringu” instead.
I give “Audition” 2 stars out of 5 ... maybe 1 ½ the more I think about it.