Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki, Jun Kunimura
Seven years after the death of his wife, company executive Aoyama is invited to sit in on fake auditions for an actress where he sets up a date with one of them, one who might be psychotic.
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An unflinching graphic film that never lets up on the disturbing and challenging material, Audition is not so much a horror film than it is a surreal character study with an exploration of disturbing behavior. Audition is everything Eli Roth’s Hostel and its lesser sequel were trying to be, but in comparison to Miike’s uncompromising picture, it shouldn’t even be uttered in the same sentence.
Audition is dark. But honestly, that barely scratches the surface of this film. Japanese filmmakers have done a wonderful job on the horror genre which for most part lacks originality, at least over here in the US. “The Grudge” was a successful film in the US, but it was first based on the original Japanese horror flick that came out before it. If you’re interested in watching some great scary movies for Halloween, maybe it’s time to retire the Freddy Kruger pictures in favor of anything Japanese horror.
Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), a middle age Japanese widower, is desperate to make a connection with a woman. His son is planning on moving out of the house. Aoyama expresses his sadness to a friend/fellow film producer, Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura). His friend becomes inspired to hold an audition for a non-existent film so that the widower can select a new potential bride from the resulting audition pool.
One of the girls he meets is a quiet yet confident Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina) who once was on the verge of ballerina greatness, but after an injury, she had to give it up. Aoyama, although not necessarily thrilled with the idea of holding auditions to find a potential date, is attracted to Yamazaki. But little does he know that Yamazaki is mentally disturbed.
During the screening, several audience members walked out. One woman in particular even shouted to the director that he was evil, and many feminist take issues with the film for its stereotypical views on woman as expressed by both Aoyama and Yoshikawa. However, the character Yamazaki takes revenge on men like Aoyama who objectify woman. She’s tortured and mutilated men who have, in her opinion, done her wrong. Yamazaki looks to be loved unconditionally and because Aoyama has a son, he can’t, so she tries to off them both.
Audition is one of the most gut wrenching films ever made, and has appeared on several lists of best horror movies of all time. John Landis and Ron Zombie both agreed that the film was disturbing and difficult to sit through. In fact, Landis argues that the graphic scenes actually took him out of enjoying the film, finding the images too unsettling. Both Landis and Zombie are horror movie making icons that have set the bars with their own films for gripping and frightening films, but even they found Audition challenging.
If you’re not into intense horror/graphic material, then Audition is certainly not for you. Even hardcore fans may find this film disturbing, and the surreal nature of the picture adds layers to the already uncompromising and unsettling look and feel of the movie. There are plenty of American films that have tried to emulate the brutal raw content of Audition, but none of them have come close or quite captured the same feeling of Miike’s masterpiece.