Audition (July 28/02)
There's been a lot of buzz going around for Audition, the latest film by Takashi Miike - a Japanese director known for churning out at least two or three flicks a year. Horror fans have been calling this movie one of the scariest to pop up in a good long while, but like another film that was supposedly very frightening a few years ago (The Sixth Sense), Audition did little to disturb me or hinder my ability to sleep.
The film opens with the death of a successful businessman's wife, leaving him to care for their young son. Time passes, and the man still hasn't completely gotten over the loss, but his now teenaged son encourages him to find a new wife (because, as the boy says, he's starting to look old). This isn't quite as easy as the man might've hoped, as he's been out of the dating loop for decades. His business partner suggests that the two hold an audition for a movie that'll never be made - this way, they can check out prospective dates and ask them whatever questions they wish. It doesn't take long for the man to find a woman he finds intriguing, and soon, the two begin a relationship fraught with trepidation (her childhood, we soon discover, was so horrifying it essentially prevents her from loving). Here's where it becomes a little dicey in talking about the film; what makes the last third enjoyable is the fact that it's completely unexpected. Needless to say, bad stuff begins to go down somewhere around the 90 minute mark.
Audition takes an almost excruciatingly long time to get going, and by the time it does, it's veered down a road that's guaranteed to turn most viewers off. It's that sharp detour that the film's fans no doubt applaud, while I was expecting something far more sinister and ominous. Consider an early sequence in which the woman is waiting for a phone call from her new lover. She sits on the floor, hunched over, while a big sack of some sort lies motionless in the background. As the phone begins to ring, we see the woman begin to smile and the sack moves violently. That sort of stuff had me thinking something otherworldly was happening here, which certainly was not the case.
It doesn't help that Miike, seemingly influenced by David Cronenberg and David Lynch, toys with reality in the last half of the flick. Dream sequences and re-interpretations of what's already happened occupy more screen time than what's really happening. It's pretty pretentious and the material in no way warrants it. Still, Audition will probably be effective for those who haven't heard a thing about it - but even then, jaded horror buffs will probably scoff at the lame conclusion.