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Audition

(2001)

Directed by

Takashi Miike

 

Review by Todd Plucknett

 

Audition is a film by Takashi Miike, the Japanese horror director. This is one of the most maniacal thrills that I have had in quite some time, and it is something that is nearly impossible to shrug off. It is something quite special.

The film opens at a hospital, where Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) witnesses his wife pass away from an illness. His son (Tetsu Sawaki) urges him seven years later to remarry to make him not feel as much isolation and despair. Soon after, Aoyama meets with a friend, a film producer. His friend tells him that they are holding an audition for a new film, and he can scout out their profiles and sit in on the audition. Only one of the portfolios really caught his eye, and it was initially by accident. Asami (Eihi Shiina) was the final interviewee of the day, and up until that point, the audition had been a complete failure for him. He was extremely impressed with this girl. He said that her outlook on life was incredibly advanced for her age, and how she dealt with setbacks and injury was inspiring.

Aoyama’s friend warns him about Asami, stating that he got a really bad vibe from her. One of her references has also been missing for a year, and very little of her work history checks out. He was oblivious to all of this, however. He begins a relationship with this seemingly perfect girl with a mysterious past. He completely falls for her, and accepts her excuses for having holes in her profile. After a few dates, they make love and she disappears. He goes to the bar that she claimed to have worked at and the ballet studio that she claimed to have been at constantly as a child, but she was nowhere to be found. What happens in the second half of this film is absolutely haunting and insane.

Ishibashi gives a great leading performance in this film. Shiina is really the star here, however. She is one of the most original and completely believable psychopathic females in movies. Think Annie Wilkes from Misery, but about fifty times more extreme (without exaggeration). You just know something is off about this character, ever since you see her sitting all isolated by herself in the audition waiting room wearing only white and reading a book. How she carries herself and speaks so slowly and mysteriously just gives the audience a raw feeling about her. Shiina just really dives into this character, and creates one of the most memorable and psychotic villains in the past several years.

The thrill really starts about halfway through the film. The first half, you just feel as if you are watching a drama about an old man trying to fall in love again. About halfway through, there is one of the most ingenious shots of Asami hunched over on the floor, sitting perfectly still, staring at her telephone, knowing for certain that Aoyama is going to call. When the phone rings, she gradually gets the most chilling smirk on her face, and lets the phone ring a few times to make it not seem obvious that she knew that he was calling. Before she answers, there is also a large burlap sack sitting next to the phone that suddenly moves and runs into the wall. It is so unexpected, that your eyes will be almost pried open, and you will seldom blink for the rest of the film. What was in the sack? Who really is this girl? What really happened in her past? All these questions are brilliantly answered in one of the most exciting and thought-provoking conclusions to any horror movie.

For about the final half hour, your jaw will drop, and it will not come back up until after the credits stop rolling. It has some of the most gruesome and cringe-inducing violence I have ever come across. Some of the images makes Hostel seem tame and Saw seem tasteful. You will want to close your eyes, but you cannot take your eyes off the screen. It is the most horrified and stunned that I have felt watching a movie in a long time. It is a totally suspenseful and hypnotic thriller that you will want to watch again instantly after…but then again, it is a lot to take in once, let alone two consecutive viewings. It is something that will stick with you, no matter how long you try to shake it. It is definitely not my genre of choice, but it is nearly impossible to deny the ambition and brilliance of this complex horror-thriller.

Rating:


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