Release Date: March 3rd, 2000 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Takashi Miike Actors: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki, Jun Kunimura, Miyuki Matsuda, Toshie Negishi
he methodic build of suspense to a genuinely terrifying conclusion is a rare success in horror films – especially when it comes to the slasher or torture-porn subgenres. Few productions quite so cunningly (and sadistically) employ an effective orchestration of the concept like Takashi Miike’s psychological thriller “Audition.” At first giving the appearance of a romantic comedy, Miike’s deliberately paced facade vanishes in the blink of a pierced eye to terminate with perhaps the most agonizingly vivid torture scene ever filmed.
“Audition” has a deceptively lighthearted opening premise and is arguably even charming. An aging father whose wife passed away some time ago is urged by his friends and his son to try dating again. Shigeharu (Ryo Ishibashi) agrees to participate in a fake audition, staged by movie producer Yasuhisa Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura), designed to interview potential candidates for the role of his new wife. Despite the filmmaker’s insightful objections, Shigeharu chooses the enchanting Asami (Eihi Shiina), a young, former ballerina whose past is shrouded in mystery. After several dates, Asami seems like the perfect match for the senescent bachelor; but upon his decision to propose to the timid girl, things quickly spiral out of control and into a hellish nightmare from which he cannot escape.
While extreme violence is no stranger to “Audition” or Miike’s repertoire, the most effective strategy is the director’s deceitful manipulation of reality. Flashbacks, ghostly imagery, and dream sequences betray possible truths and horrifying corporality, while the unpredictability of these moments offers wrenching anticipation and shuddering apprehension of just how harrowing Shigeharu’s situation will become. Furthermore, the climax proposes an illusory avenue of desperate evasion that initiates yet another opportunity to toy with the audience. It’s one so craftily devised that it has often been copied, though, like the most shocking shots in “Psycho” or “Alien,” the surprise factor can rarely be matched.
Certainly not for the squeamish, “Audition” nevertheless deserves recognition for its genuine creepiness and the artistically distressing fusion of conflicting genres. This early work from Miike is a true test of backbone for even the most jaded gorehound, as it cleverly mocks the traditional tactics of Western horror films and heralds the rise of torture-porn. Dare to see the unrated version for the full, uncut (and most unforgiving) segments of excruciating bloodshed.
– Joel Massie