Plotline: Seven years after Shigeharu lost his wife, he decides it is time to remarry. He and his friend concoct a scheme of setting up fake movie "auditions" in the hopes of finding him a potential mate. He sees the resume of one woman and is immediately smitten. But delicate lovely Japanese women are not always what they seem to be.
Scariness factor: Audition made it to slot #11 on Bravo's List of the 100 Scariest Movie Moments, a slight point of contention with me. Audition isn't so much SCARY as it is DISTURBING. Yes, there is a fine line between the two, but I think the line that is drawn is the line of universality. The events of Audition are moreso disturbing than scary because they are isolated events that happen to one individual in a way that is never threatening to me as viewer. For once, the female is not the victim. And since I'm not a middle-aged man who has either a) tortured women, or b) had the luck of setting himself up with a crazy woman (nor am I a MAN period, for that matter), I of course don't end up feeling quite as threatened as when the main victim is a female (or is at least depicted as more of a "universal" character that everyone can relate to). So it lacks a bit of universality in the way that, say, The Exorcist does not because the threat is from something that is unstoppable and can strike at anyone. But despite my qualms about it being a "scary" movie rather than merely a "disturbing" one, I must say, both the main female character (Asami) and the bag freaked the shit out of me. Never in a movie has a bag been so fucking scary. I think the moment its contents are revealed will be etched in my brain forever. No doubt. Contradictory, you ask? No--because both are isolated entities within the movie, and neither one fails to make the movie as a whole scary to me.
Originality: Hmmm. Dating fling turns into horrific stalker/madness episodes--let us turn to Fatal Attraction and a handful of other movies to help us out here. Audition is nothing new on this front--however, the insane female character will chill you to your core in a way that Glenn Close never even came CLOSE to.
Complaints: Something about the way this movie is filmed makes it feel like it's made-for-tv more often than not. And when Takashi Miike tries for hand-held moments of terror, these moments look silly and even MORE made-for-tv-ish, killing the moments of suspense rather than heightening them. My other big complaint is that it took the movie at least 45 minutes to get rolling. I'm all about character-development and understand that this is essential in this movie so that we see that the main male character is not remotely a bad guy. But the first 45 minutes were RIDICULOUSLY slow. I saw the Bravo clip where they talked about why it made it to #11 on the list of the 100 Scariest Movie Moments, and everyone discussed how this slow crescendo is undoubtedly what made this film so terrifying. And yes, I can see the argument for that. But nonetheless, the first 45 minutes were really really slow. And this did not please me too much. Also, a new pet peeve of mine is the torture and killing of animals in horror films to emphasize the horrificness and unfeelingness of the villains. This is overused and a cheap shot, in my opinion. Of course everyone's heart is gonna drop when they see a dog that's been tortured--the challenge is getting the same effect in a DIFFERENT and less cheap and easy kind of way. And finally, *POTENTIAL SPOILERS* the last 20 minutes or so of this film are some of the most gruesome torture scenes I've seen in a long while. This definitely made the movie creepier than it otherwise would've been, but my feelings on the scenes were mixed. The Asami character is out and out terrifying in these scenes--chanting all cutesy and giggling with glee while she tortures the main character. It offers up some disturbing images. But I left wondering if these images were just empty ones. /END SPOILER
High Points: That damn bag. It will leave you intrigued and horrified. Especially when its contents are revealed. The shots of Asami and the bag are some of the scariest film-moments I've seen in a while. And Eihi Shiina who plays Asami is mind-blowingly terrifying once her sweet-girl mask is taken off. I doubt that I've seen a female villain quite so terrifyingly insane. Which leads to probably my favorite aspect of the movie: the weird gender-politics in the movie. The movie (and main character?) conflate all women into one during the final scenes of the movie in a haunting kind of way. And the villain conflates all males into one as well. This certainly is a bizarre and unsettling case of gender equality as stereotypes go, and fucked up gender equality at that. Audition offers up some intriguing moments though, moments perhaps worth exploring more by some feminist theorists or some fellow movie geeks.
Overall: I haven't quite settled on whether or not I like this movie enough to recommend it. I most definitely have no interest in watching it again. But I am glad that I saw it as it is an interesting flick and offers up some madly haunting images that will stick with me for a long time. As I write this and work through my own thoughts on the film, I am left thinking that, yes, I would recommend it. Don't expect anything fast-paced because this movie is one slow (but carefully) moving bugger. But the pay-off in the end is terrifying and will perhaps make it worth while. And if nothing else, you can say that you saw the #11 scariest movie moment ever.
Grade: B (?)