Audition (1999)

APRIL 19, 2008


Since I believe the day I was born, people have been telling me to watch Audition (aka Ôdishon), saying "You'll love it!", "It's the most fucked up movie ever!" and things along those lines. What no one DID tell me is that it is in fact an incredibly boring movie, one that's not very well-filmed to boot, with all of the horror confined to a 10 minute chunk near the end of the film (save for a random shot of a bag throwing itself across the room about halfway through).

Afterwards I was told that that was the point of the movie - to lull you into boredom so that the torture stuff was all the more shocking and hard to watch. Well, fine, but that's not a movie. That's an exercise. Maybe it would work in 1999, on an audience who didn't even know it was a horror movie, but a movie that can only work under very specific circumstances isn't something I can particularly recommend, even if I HAD watched it under said circumstances. You know, Memento hinges on a gimmick as well, but it's still a well-crafted, highly enjoyable film to watch a 2nd or 3rd time.

And this isn't a complaint, but more of a warning to anyone who hasn't seen it yet and feels compelled to do so after reading this review: the torture really ain't all that disturbing. She cuts off his foot and sticks a few needles in his body (and eyes - the most cringe-worthy part of the entire sequence is when she "flicks" the needles protruding from his ocular region), and that's about it. Her frequent repeating of "Kittykittykitty" (misspelled Japanese for "Deeper, deeper") is more chilling than anything she's actually doing, and a decade later, it's almost kind of funny that the film had to be cut for an R rating; the stuff in the R-rated Saw films is far more graphic and disturbing. So if you're looking to be TRULY disturbed, you probably won't find it here if you've kept up with your modern "torture porn".

One thing I did like is how they filled in back-story via a hallucination that the main guy suffers as he is passing out from a drugged drink. It's one of those "is this real or completely imagined" type sequences, and it's probably the highlight of the film. More stuff like that and the film would have been great, but since it's more or less an experimental piece, it would nullify his attempt.

I'm glad the movie has its fans, and I do wish I could go back and watch it completely un-prepared for what I was about to see. But I can't say that even then I'd be particularly amazed by it, because intentional or not, the fact remains that 95% of the movie is lifeless and dull (and since it's not in English, I don't even have the option of "just listening" to it while I work on a Sudoku or something). I didn't see Psycho until the mid 90s; I didn't see Exorcist until 2000 (thankfully, it was the original version, not the 2000 "Version You Wish You Never Saw" or whatever the fuck it was called), etc., and I was still able to enjoy those films immensely, despite the "outdated" feel of certain sequences and the fact that I had already seen the dozens of movies that ripped those films off in subsequent years. And in Psycho's case, the comparison is incredibly apt, as the big "thrill" of that film for a first time audience was seeing its heroine killed 1/3 of the way through - something I already knew! But it still worked, because the performances, the technical aspects, the story, etc. were almost or just as compelling. That's how you do it!

I've only seen one other Miike film - his Masters of Horror (Imprint), which I really liked, due to Billy Drago's insane performance, the truly upsetting imagery (fetuses + river = ew), and the fact that it was half as long as Audition. Knowing that, which of his movies would you, dear reader, think I might enjoy? I assume not all of his films are the equivalent of an inverse pop quiz.

What say you?


  1. I did find the "feeding" scene of the occupant of the sack to be more disturbing that anything else in this movie - all I could say when I watched that was WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?

  2. "gozu" is good, but i would skip most of miike's oeuvre. you already reviewed shinya tsukamoto's nightmare detective and the rest of his movies are pretty much all good----though the only ones that are really horror movie-like, i guess, are "haze" (very short) "gemini" ("horrors of malformed men" is a really good 60's adaptation of another story by the same author, the 'japanese edgar allan poe'....) and "hiruko the goblin" (kind of a weird one but stupid/good in its way)..... "964 pinocchio" is another one to watch, by shozin fukui................

  3. I'm a huge fan of Miike, but I have to agree that Audition doesn't really work. You'd be somewhat better served by checking out Gozu, which is kind of a surrealist nightmare horror, Ichi the Killer, a pretty funny gorefest about a mob enforcer trying to take down a mad killer, or Izo, which is essentially 90 minutes of a demon guy with a sword murdering everyone he sees, with occasional stoppages for some good pothead philosophy.

    You can also check out The Happiness of the Katakuris, which is a musical about a family-owned hotel whose customers keep tragically dying, but its horror connections are prety tenuous at best.

  4. Great review, and I agree with you 100%; glad to know I'm not alone. I don't even have your excuse of hearing too much about it beforehand; I actually saw this in the theater when it was released stateside. I knew very little about it, and thought exactly like you did.

    Don't really get the appeal of Miike; I didn't even like "Imprint." He did do the original version of "One Missed Call," and it's a decent thriller; million times better than the awful remake.

  5. same anonymous here. whatever you do, DON'T watch izo. really godawful, pointless, tedious, w/ the aesthetics of a video game. didnt spring to mind but the first two "dead or alive" movies are really good as is "visitor q" and ,yeah, i second happiness of the katakuris. but a really uneven + overrated director.

  6. VISITOR Q!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I'd say this one is even more fucked up than Audition.

    I didn't find that film at all boring, by the way.

    I loved the whole bit about finding additional body parts at the murder scene. Wasn't it the guy in the sack's tongue?

    And isn't there another garotte scene when a guy's head gets cut off?

  7. My gf took me to see Audition, whenever it was that it came out, and I remember thinking "Why has she taken me to see this awful rom-com thing?"

    And then there'd be one of those little scenes with the sack, which proved enough to fight off boredom in hope SOMETHING would happen.

    In the end I liked it, and I still do. But it's reputation is more than a tad misleading!

  8. Visitor Q is probably his most fucked up film, and I don't mean that in a good way. It's the kind of flick that might make friends re-consider your relationship. You won't go wrong with DOA1 (pussy darts!) or Gozu, which is a total Lynch homage, so consider giving those a spin, though only Gozu might be considered a horror film.

    Miike is a hit and miss kinda guy, though more often then not his flicks work. I got burned out on the yakuza stuff, but Ichi the Killer is still quite enjoyable.

  9. I don't know, I thought this movie was pretty well made. The "calm before the storm" scenes were permeated with dread in my opinion. There was always a sense of something not being right with that girl. And that foot scene was painful to sit through.

  10. This review from the guy who liked Doomsday and the Prom Night remake. douch

  11. i have a love hate relationship with this movie. that bag across the room scared the fuck out of me because i just didnt expect it, and that feeding scene-- UGH. the torture scene was really built up to me by various people, so i was just like... shrug... but the whole movie has this tense sort of "what he fuck is going on" feel to it. her weird flashbacks, the disjointed storytelling... it was so dreamlike, i felt it did and didn't work.

    plus i like when he bonds with his son.

    ah well.

  12. Oh Mr Anonymous, will you and I ever agree?

  13. Hi BC,

    Ah yes, same guy who did Itchi the Killer, right? I couldn't finish that one. Gore aside, the film made no sense!


  14. I was also recommended this film by a couple friends and even an Hollywood Video worker exclaiming that this film is scary. I WANT to be scared, I want to find the ultimate scariest movie for me but the Audition fails.

    I was waiting till the scary shit comes on however it took an estimated 1 hour and 20 minutes before anything starts happening. I agree that since this film is in Japanese, reading subtitles for over an hour was the real torture....I would suggest "Imprint" by Miike since it's only an hour and is actually a bit scary and entertaining throughout.

  15. I liked the movie but can say I expected a little more killing. It was Tormented the plot a little hard to follow but awesome blood scenes and made you feel a little squirmy with the suspense in some of the torture parts. But all and all you don't need a whole lot of killing to get your point across plus the movie was very original. I think it's a great movie to watch.

  16. I saw this on the big screen, back in its original cinematic release (prior to its being very well known). I was blown away by it then.


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