Horrifying Musings of the Fourth Kind: Audition (2000)

Seven years after his wife’s passing, Aoyama is a lonely man who decides he wants to remarry, holding an audition to find the perfect girl. When he does finally choose a woman, however, he may be in for more than he’s expecting.

Look up lists of the best Japanese horror films and you’ll Audition on pretty much all of them; people heap praise onto this film like it’s among the best horror films in recent years. It also has its share of controversy surrounding it for the “extremely graphic” torture scenes. And, yes, those were quotation marks I put there. But we’ll address that subject later. Considering all this, it’s understandable how I went into the film with fairly high expectations, so when I did see it… Well, simply put, I did like Audition a fair amount, but I would certainly not go as far as to say that it’s one of the best horror films I’ve seen in the past few years. Especially “ever”. The reasons for this are multiple, but let’s touch upon the few positive points of the film first, shall we?

The acting of Audition was one thing that stuck out as being very good, especially that of Asami Yamazaki, the actress who played Asama, AKA Mrs. Loony Bin. She was able to pull off the timid, shy type of personality very convincingly, as well as the… true nature of the character, let’s just say. You now, the one that liked needles and torture (the best kind of girl).

Ryo Ishibashi also played the part of Aoyama pretty decently, even if his character was bland and, well, moronic very often. Sure, he was “likable” because he was a nice guy and all, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t simply a total idiot during the course of the whole movie. “Oh, this girl who I only just recently met is so wonderful, I’m forever devoted to her. Wait, she’s lying about her entire life? Hmmm. Well, that doesn’t matter, I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation. Not that I’ll ever bring it up or ask about it. Now that would just be silly!” And yes, while that’s obviously not exact dialogue, it’s pretty much his exact attitude about the whole situation. I’m really not even exaggerating. No joke.

Asama, of course, was the most memorable role of the whole film, playing the fragile, soft-spoken, lunatic love interest of Aoyama’s. What a twisted love it was. I think we need a theme song for this. Her lack of a personality in the beginning of the film makes you wonder why on earth Aoyama, an appealing man with a lot going for him, would fall so quickly for someone like her (and when I say quickly, I really mean quickly) but we soon see there’s a lot more to this seemingly timid woman than meets the eye. That’s when the film really starts; when we begin to see her for what she truly is. That’s certainly where all of the creepiness in Audition (albeit, there’s very little creepiness to be found, but there’s some to consider) lays. The scene with her hunched over in her apartment, smiling wickedly as the phone rings, comes to mind. Oh, you Japanese people. You do love to put hunched over Grudge girls in your horror films.

When the actual torture does finally happen, it turns out that it’s the best part of the whole film – that’s one thing the majority of people got right about this movie. Needles in the eyeballs, feet being slowly cut off with a thin wire… Excellent. I must say, however, that I was actually a bit disappointed with this aspect of the film despite it being the highlight of the movie. That’s right, severed limbs and eyeball-needles were still not enough to satisfy me. Really though, I’ve been hearing all these things about the horrendously graphic torture in Audition, and for chrissakes, the poster for the film is Asama holding a giant syringe – I expected, understandably so, at least Hostel-level torture here. Instead, we were only treated to it for a few minutes, and what we did see wasn’t all that bad compared to a lot of other horror films I’ve seen in my time. Heck, during the course of the entire torture scene we rarely ever actually saw anything; it was mostly just a close up of Asama’s face digging things as she gleefully chops the poor bastard up. I actually did find this a nice touch – after all, them doing it this way was just so they could put a unique twist on the average torture scene – but it only adds to my point that the torture itself was an utter let down. Do something really sick, Takashi Miike! Make her… I don’t know… cook the dog and serve it to the family with them not knowing but finding it oddly delicious! That’s the sort of thing I was waiting for, but unfortunately, you didn’t take that golden opportunity. For shame.

While I’m getting things negative things out of the way, let me just say that Audition isn’t one of the most well made movies I’ve ever seen in terms of things like editing or quality. Not by a long shot. To be honest, sometimes it looked like it was being filmed with a camcorder – a really good, HD camcorder, yes, but a camcorder nonetheless. Also, don’t do jump scenes. That’s only allowed in things like video reviews. Not movies. Please. Do yourselves – and everyone else – a favor and take that rule to heart.

The story was probably Audition‘s biggest redeeming quality. I mean, come on – it’s about a lonely man who finds the apparent girl of his dreams, only to have her soon turn into the biggest psycho since Norman Bates. It may not be the most original concept, but it’s one that gives a lot of room for great storytelling. While it did live up to some of that potential, however, unfortunately it also failed in that aspect, too, because a lot of the time it simply became a confusing mess with plot lines frequently left hanging, never to be revisited again. The place where Asama was supposed to work at, for example – what’s the story with that? We know the owner died, presumably killed by Asama, but… maybe we can get some confirmation of that? Or maybe confirmation on who’s in that weird bag of hers (I’m guessing the owner, but you know what? Maybe it’s Joe down the street. The world will never know)? Audition lets you take intelligent guesses about things, but usually doesn’t give you enough information to know for sure. Deliberate? Perhaps. But annoying regardless.

All in all, Audition was a relatively solid movie; the acting and story were both good, with the character of Asama being fairly interesting. Pretty much everything else, however, falls very, very flat; the torture was a let down, the story didn’t reach 90% of its potential with many things never even being explained. I can deal with sub par filming/editing, and I can even deal with it being pretty boring before it really takes off about forty minutes in, but with the whole package deal containing everything I’ve mentioned? You don’t fool me, Audition. You’re not one of the best Japanese horror films out there – far from it. If you’re bored and you’re in the mood for J-horror, watch Ju-on. If you’ve already seen that and want something new, then sure, go for Audition – for all its faults, it’s still worth seeing, but don’t buy into the hype because if you do, you may very well be disappointed.

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