11:00 - 10th July 2016, by NEO Staff


What is there to say that hasn’t already been said about one of the scariest horror films of all time? Audition, adapted from the novel by the always provocative Ryu Murakami, made director Takashi Miike an overnight celebrity for horror fans and film critics alike. The same also happened for the film’s leading lady Eihi Shiina, who has been vamping it up as various horror movie villainesses ever since. Audition is terrifying, unpredictable and timeless. You may have seen it before, so why see it again? To watch a master at work.

Those who have not seen it before may wonder initially what all the fuss is about. The first hour is a very sombre affair as Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) and his colleague Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura) put together a staged audition process. This is to allow Aoyama to interview several women in the hope of finding a date, and maybe something more. His friends and his son think he needs someone new in his life, as it has been several years since his wife passed away. Aoyama becomes infatuated with Asami (Eihi Shiina), and quickly sees her more and more, until she suddenly disappears.

Shortly before this, and very suddenly – in a brief cutaway – you see the sack. Then it moves, and Asami smiles.

From here on in, Miike ratchets up the dread slowly but surely, while Aoyama tries to put together the story of Asami’s background. He then assembles the terrifying pieces in a bizarre dream sequence where the sack finally opens. You may have an idea of what’s coming next when Aoyama wakes up – courtesy of the film’s posters and various DVD covers – but it is still not enough to prepare you for the horror of the finale.

Miike orchestrates the whole ensemble perfectly. He demonstrates his skills in all genres – romance, tragedy, drama, and even a few dashes of comedy – as well as Hitchcockian suspense and atmospheric horror in the style of Stanley Kubrick.

After Audition?, Miike went on to direct films in a variety of genres. He has helmed video game adaptations, kids’ films, superhero tales, action thrillers and manga adaptations. The most famous of the latter is arguably Ichi the Killer (2001), where Miike definitely upped the ante on the gore – literally throwing body parts and CGI blood at the viewer. Audition is much more subtle in its effects, as it blends CGI with prosthetics and blood for a chilling effect. Overall, Audition is a very different and more effective beast within the horror genre. The initial slicing and dicing in Ichi prepares viewers for most of what comes later, but the seemingly innocent beginnings of Audition, even with the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance of the sack, do little to hint at the horror to come for poor Aoyama.

A sucker punch to the viewers’ senses, now made better – or much worse – in high definition.

Slow-burning it may be, but the final fireworks still make a huge impact. Miike proves himself a master of building suspense, purely because he can execute both scenes of subtle drama and gruesome horror, and weave the two seamlessly within one film. This filmmaking feat almost goes unnoticed, until you realise and it’s too late. You have been warned.
SCORE: 5/5
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