Recent East Asian Cinema #3: Audition.

Welcome to the third of seven posts that will detail East Asian cinema, giving genre history leading up to a recent movie which will be reviewed! I hope you enjoy the series. For more information or previous entries, check the posts below this one.


Genre: J-Horror.

History: Horror films go way back, but we’ll be discussing a certain brand of horror here: movies of gore. To begin with this subgenre, we must begin with the two movies that inspired them all. In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock created one of the most iconic horror films with one of the most iconic murder scenes (even though the shower scene doesn’t really show the knife penetrating and has an insanely small amount of blood). However, in 1968, George A. Romero created Night of the Living Dead (inspired by the novella I Am Legend), the movie to really make the gore-movie popular. And it was only outdone by its sequel, Dawn of the Dead, ten years later.

It was a mix of these types of movies that went on to inspire the first true slasher movie, Black Christmas (1974), as well as the famous Friday the 13th (1980) and Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) movies. Also in 1974, we were introduced to the movie that really began the torturous splatter-gore subgenre with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Throughout the 70s and 80s, we were introduced to numerous slasher flicks and gore-fest flicks until the genre wore itself silly (much like the monster movie did).

Then, in 1996, the gore-loving slasher flicks would get a revival in the form of Wes Craven’s self-aware, homage-paying Scream. The revival of the genre was short-lived, however, as it soon began to wear itself thin again with countless additions to the genre, such as I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), Urban Legend (1998), and the more original and better-liked Final Destination (2000). Because the subgenre was riding its last threads, it seemed as if everything had to be knocked up a few notches. The gore would become the center of the movie, and Eli Roth’s Hostel in 2005 would be responsible for garnering the term torture porn and coining it into mainstream cinema.

Meanwhile, while all of this was occurring in American cinema, something else entirely was happening with Japanese Horror (J-Horror). J-Horror was taking two different approaches: the supernatural/psychological and the gore-fest. Famed director Hideo Nakata would create movies (which would later be remade in America) such as Ringu (1998) and Dark Water (2002). These were on the supernatural/psychological side of the spectrum. On the other side of the spectrum was famed and controversial director Takashi Miike, who made movies such as Ichi The Killer (2001), One Missed Call (2004), and Audition (1999). The latter of this list, which has its roots deeply set in everything previously mentioned (slasher/gore/psychological), is truly one of the scariest and most disturbing movies Japan has to offer… which is why it’s the movie I’m going to discuss now.

Audition (1999).

Country of Origin: Japan.

Original Title: ƌdishon.

Director: Takashi Miike.

Audition is about Shigeharu (Ryo Ishibashi), a man who lost his wife to an illness seven years prior. His son, Shigehiko (Tetsu Sawaki), as well as his movie producer friend, Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura), talk him into getting back into the field and trying to find another wife. Yoshikawa talks him into holding a fake audition, where the women will think they’re auditioning for a movie role, but are really auditioning for the role as Shigeharu’s wife-to-be. During these auditions, Shigeharu meets Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina), a young, shy woman who claims to have been a ballerina. Shigeharu thinks he’s finally found his perfect match, even against Yoshikawa’s warnings that Asami doesn’t seem right. Asami lives in an empty apartment with nothing but a telephone and a burlap sack (though Shigeharu doesn’t know this). They continue to date until Asami makes Shigeharu promise that he won’t love anybody else but her. However, things don’t start checking out right. Asami’s references are either fake or missing. Shigeharu has to figure out what’s going on with Asami before it’s too late (and we all know what happens next!).

The movie has an incredibly slow pacing, especially at the beginning. But it’s done like that on purpose. The movie wants you to get to like Asami as this cute, shy young woman before the ending hits like a bag of bricks. It’s the suspense that keeps you watching. What’s in that burlap sack? What happened to Asami’s music producer ex? Just when you think it’s dragging a bit too long, the movie throws you a curveball and makes you go ‘what the hell?’ (Specifically the scene where the burlap sack moves, and Asami’s just listening to the phone ring, staring down at her lap, and a small smile crosses her lips. It’s the creepiest scene in the whole movie. I even knew it was coming beforehand, and I still jumped and got creeped out).

But the movie all builds up to that insanely graphic 15-minute conclusion, which is really the only scene anybody remembers (or cares about). The only bad thing about that scene is that I remember being incredibly confused the first time I saw it. Halfway through, it cuts away to some other crazy things and makes you wonder if the whole thing was a dream… but then cuts back to it after what seems like ages. It was just an odd moment for me.

The movie is close to two hours long, but not much actually happens until the very end. I know the slow-rising pacing was done purposefully, but I think some of it could have been a bit better (primarily toward the beginning). The ending is hardcore, and it has even made famed directors John Landis and Rob Zombie admit they had trouble watching it (which they admitted on Bravo’s Top 100 Scariest Movie Moments, in which Audition came in at #11. It was where I first heard about the film, actually). Regardless of any negatives, the slower parts did allow for character development, which allowed you to actually care for some of these characters (making the ending even crazier). So I suppose I should rate it.

A Keanu 'Whoa'

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