It’s been a couple of weeks since I started delving into the streaming horror pile at Netflix so I decided it was finally time to recognize some international horror. This week we take a look at Audition, a Japanese film from director Takashi Miike. It could probably be classified as the grandfather of the Japanese horror movement that exploded at the turn of the 21st century, but really, despite it’s country of origin, it is much, much different than the Japanese Horror we have become familiar with today. While Ringu and The Eye focus on the paranormal, Audition is quite comfortable staying in our tangible reality.
The film introduces us to Shigeharu Aoyama, a widower and father who works in the entertainment business. Within the first few minutes of the movie he realizes that he is ready to look for a new wife. How does a man in the movie business approach the task of finding a mate you ask? Why you hold an audition of course. While Shigeharu decides to audition several women, there is one woman, Asami Yamazaki, who has caught his eye. To explain the plot any further would ruin the movie, but let’s just say things take a twist towards horrific.
What makes Audition so unique, and fantastic, is the time it takes to develop the characters and the story. There is no argument that this film would fall under the “slow burn” category. It’s safe to say that any scenes that could be considered horrific don’t happen until the final third of the movie. That said, when these things do happen they really happen. There is a string of sequences that will make the most hardened horror fan feel a bit uneasy, if not not downright queasy.
The unfortunate symptom of the “slow burn” classification is that people equate that with another adjective, “boring”. Granted, this movie takes it time. It takes ample time developing relationships and atmosphere, but believe me it will never leave you bored. The environment of the movie develops slowly, but it builds with intent and style, often making you feel nervous for reasons you can’t really understand. Asami is beautiful, and oddly charming, but she always feels a little dangerous. Shigeharu seems to not notice, or has decided to ignore, the dangerous side of the girl. It’s almost as if her attributes outweigh, or completely blind him to, the darker side of herself.
This male obliviousness is an indication of the underlying theme of Audition. Women are treated as possessions, as objects to be pursued to fulfill a man’s life. With the audition, the men in the movie seem like they are picking out a new car rather than a life partner. Unfortunately for Shigeharu, emotional stability was not on his list for a mate. Needless to say, this objectification of women comes back to haunt our protagonist in a rather nasty way. To say anymore, though, would ruin the experience of this movie. Sit back, let the movie play out, and feel free to stay on your couch until you recover from what you’ve just seen. Oh, and never ever watch this movie on a first date.