John Ary here with another installment of Ain’t It Scary Reviews. Today we follow a Japanese widower that gets more than he bargains for when he courts a mysterious young woman.
Takashi Miike’s Audition is movie that no middle-aged single man should watch alone. The director’s take on modern-day romanticism spirals down into a deep dark rabbit hole full of homogenized dating rituals and grisly torture. The quest for love has never been so difficult to watch.
Our protagonist is a widower, raising his teenage son in Japan. When he mentions to his friend and business partner that he may be in the market for a new companion, the two hatch a seemingly harmless charade. They plan to hold an audition for a fake television show. Our widower combs through the resumes, searching for his next wife. One girl stands out above the rest and the two form a relationship. She’s beautiful, young, lonely, obedient, wise beyond her years. In other words... she’s perfect. This amazing woman is hiding a secret though, one our main character will discover too late.
This is such a strange film. It starts off like a harmless romantic comedy and slowly shifts into something much more menacing. There are small clues along the way that this girl may not be on the level, but people in love tend to overlook small inconsistencies. The infatuated see what they want to see. Miike makes a statement here about the male chauvinism of his culture’s dating rituals. Marriage seems more like a business proposition than a romantic quest for a soulmate to our main character. He’s looking for someone to fulfill his base needs, rather than a life partner. By pursuing a list of check marks instead of looking for an equal, our middle-aged Romeo ends up with a marriage candidate that is too good to be true.
This film is most notable for its gory climax. It’s brief, tense, appalling and very well done. The ending reminded me a lot of the sledgehammer scene in Misery between Kathy Bates and James Caan, but amped up with more psychological intensity. There is blood. There is pain. There is death. It is very unpleasant.
Some of the most horrific images take place in the imagination of the protagonist. I think this is Miike’s way of playing with the audience and it’s a witty comment on his own film. We have almost two hours to wait for this bloody climax. We know it’s coming. After the main character is drugged by his disturbed girlfriend, he suffers through a series of flashbacks and hallucinations. He envisions a grotesque outcome for himself that involves a mysterious bag. Will this outcome be worse than what his perfect mate has in store for him? Audition is an exercise in anticipation. We wait to see just what this young woman is hiding. When all is revealed, you’ll wish our Romeo had just hired a professional matchmaker.
Audition is currently streaming on Netflix. It’s also available on Blu-ray here.
Check back in tomorrow for another Ain’t It Scary Review as a deadly humanoid-feline roams the streets of Paris.
Here’s a look back at the Ain’t It Scary Review installments that you might have missed:
The Ground Rules to the Project
#1 Son of Frankenstein
#2 Scream, Blacula, Scream!
#3 Black Sabbath
#5 Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
#6 Invisible Invaders
#7 The Mummy’s Curse
#8 Lord of Illusions
#9 Night of the Demons
#10 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
#11 The House of the Devil
#12 Dr. Phibes Rises Again!