Summer of Horror: Audition (1999) In which I finally see a perennial Summer of Horror movie

Takashi Miike’s Audition is one of those movies that’s been landing on these Summer of Horror watch lists – unseen – since almost the very beginning. In fact if memory serves it might have even been on the second one I ever did, which would make this year eight of attempting to get around to it. I finally did it!

If you’re reading this I’m going to presume you’re at least vaguely familiar with the premise of the movie, but I’m going to sum it up anyways. Aoyama is a lonely widower and single father who is ready to re-marry. But he’s particular. Older and with a teenage son, he’s hesitant to dive into the dating world. So while chatting with a colleague who happens to be a movie producer, they hatch a plan to find Aoyama a mate: The producer digs up an old script he has lying around and puts a fake movie in development for the sole purpose of auditioning women for the lead role. In reality, it’s an efficient ploy to get one lonely old man in front of a pool of available women who meet his exact specifications.

If that sounds like the setup for a 90’s romantic comedy, well, it legitimately could have been. There’s not the slightest hint of horror for the first 30 some odd minutes. In fact, I wish there had been a way for me to view this without knowing a single thing about it (including the genre). Because the romantic comedy plot is well on its way before we suddenly find out that the “winner” of the audition is not what she seems. Sitting slumped on a bare floor, perfectly still, staring at the phone for days waiting for the call to set up date #2, Asami is clearly disturbed. And there’s a suspiciously large bag in the background that suddenly twitches…

SPOILER TIME

I don’t usually use spoiler warnings, particularly on 20 year old films, but anyone unfamiliar with Audition should definitely view it fresh. As immersed in the horror world as I am, it was impossible for me to avoid knowing how this movie plays out, so the effect was slightly diminished.

Audition is considered a pioneer of the oft-maligned “torture porn” phase of early 2000’s horror, and that’s because torture is the centerpiece of the third act. Back in ’99, I’m sure nobody saw this ending coming. It gets very graphic, very quickly, and doesn’t cut away from the most gruesome acts – all hallmarks of the sub-genre. Let’s say it involves lots of long, sharp needles, and a wire saw that had to have influenced scenes in Hereditary. And yes, you find out what’s in the bag. Asami is not OK.

I can see certain horror fans and casual viewers alike lacking the patience for this movie. It takes its sweet time arriving at anything remotely resembling horror. But that buildup is absolutely necessary to maximize the shock value of the ending. I’m glad I finally saw it.

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