Audition (1999) – Takashi Miike

“Didn’t you see Fatal Attraction?”

“You wouldn’t let me!”

“Well I saw it and it scared the shit out of me! It scared the shit out of every man in America!”

That exchange from Sleepless In Seattle was all I could think of while I was watching Audition, the next film brought to me on the 101 Horror Movies list.

We return to Japan and South Korea for this terrifying piece that preceded the American rise of torture porn when Saw came along (due on the list now at any time I believe). Directed by Takashi Miike, the film actually puts you at ease for the first half, engaging you with what feels like a romantic drama with just a hint of a mystery. And who doesn’t like a girl with mystery?

Shigeharu (Ryo Ishibashi) is a single father, raising his son, still nursing the wound of the death if his wife seven years earlier. At his son’s urging, he starts toying with the idea of dating and eventually marrying again, but, after being so long out of the game, is a little unsure of how to do it.

His friend, Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura) comes up with an idea. He’s a TV and movie producer and figures that’s the best way for Shigeharu to meet someone – they’ll hold auditions, and perhaps he’ll find someone who catches his interest then.

And as luck would have it, he does.

He meets Asami (Eihi Shiina), a rather delicate looking young woman, who seems a little quiet, and a little unsure of herself. Shigeharu is immediately taken with her, but Yoshikawa has reervations. He checks her references and contacts, none of which pan out, leaving him worried about his friend and cautioning Shigeharu to take his time.

After the audition, however, Shigeharu phones her and they arrange to meet for dinner, and slowly the two begin a very gentle and heartfelt courtship. They slowly open up to one another, sharing stories of their past, of which we slowly get flashes of Asami’s, and start to realize it’s not so good…

We’re also shown Asami’s tiny little flat, a couple of times, with a phone in the foreground and a rather bulky, moving canvas bag in the background. A little unnerving.

Finally, after the two of them finally become intimate, things begin to take a turn for the bizarre. Asami has literally vanished by the time Shigeharu wakes to a ringing phone.

Left with almost no way to find her, Shigeharu hunts her down anyway he can, until he comes across her flat. He also begins to discover some of the dark secrets that this abused young woman keeps. One of them is the tonguless man inhabiting the canvas bag, missing three fingers from his hand, eating Asami’s vomit.

Knowing her secret, and now having her obsessed with him loving her and only her, she breaks into his flat, and not only kills his dog, drugs him, and slowly begins a graphic and intense sequence where she tortures him, right up to the final climax of the film.

The last half of the film may be too graphic for a lot of people, especially with the way the story sets you at ease in the first half of the film by easing you into a romance movie. That’s what makes the second half of the film that much more disturbing.

It’s well put together, the makeup and effects are great, and tends to give my tummy a little wiggle, and had me muttering things like, “Oh that’s not gonna be good…”

What did you think of it?

 

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