FEATURE: Shocktober '15 - Audition

Over the course of October, I shall be watching one horror movie a day and reviewing it right here for your reading pleasure. I haven't seen any of the films I'll be watching before and you can find the full list here.



Blimey.

The above was my instant reaction as the credits rolled and to be perfectly frank, I've been having a hard time coming up with anything majorly coherent since. However, as writing about the films I'm watching over the course of this month is pretty much the entire point of the exercise, I shall attempt to get my thoughts into some kind of order. Also, I'm going to endeavour not to spoil the film for those who haven't seen it because going into Audition without any prior knowledge is absolutely the thing to do.

Based on the novel by Ryu Murakami, Ryo Ishibashi plays Shigeharu Aoyama, widowed seven years and father to a teenage son who encourages him to get back into the dating game and find someone to marry. Aoyama shares his problems with his friend, Yoshikawa, a producer in the film industry who comes up with what he believes to be a clever idea; they will hold auditions for the prospective bride under the guise of producing a romantic movie. Aoyama is immediately drawn to the application of Asami Yamazaki and the pair form a tentative relationship with Aoyama wilfully ignoring the warning signs that she may not be all she says she is.

First of all, I'll repeat the blimey. The last half an hour or so of this film is possibly one of the most intense cinematic experiences I've had, thoroughly drawn in by the weird, trippy quality that permeates plenty of the scenes to the viscerally nasty torture scenes that had me peeking through my fingers. Takashi Miike's direction uses the power of suggestion masterfully, knowing exactly when to cut away and also when to linger deliriously on the events unfolding, working beautifully with the dream-like cinematography of Hideo Yamamoto. It's the kind of film that you're desperate to see end because you're not sure you can take that much more tension whilst at the same time loving every second of feeling so on edge. 

The work from Ryo Ishibashi and Eihi Shiina in these scenes take their already very good performances to the next level, pushing their characters to the very extremities of their personalities without losing what made them compelling in the first place. Shiina is particularly good, embodying Asami with a coy femininity that is never lost even as the violence ratchets up and one which also manages the tricky task of eliciting sympathy for a character who, in the wrong hands, could have easily been a caricature.

The relationship between Asami and Aoyama is the glue that holds the film together as it traverses genres, feeling ostensibly like a romantic drama for much of its run time. However, the narrative is peppered with moments that sound alarm bells for the warnings to come. The audition process itself is a horror show of male entitlement and sexism as Yoshikawa asks deeply personal and invasive questions as if it's the most ordinary thing in the world. It would take more time and space than I have to here to analyse all of the gender politics at work, but it's a film rich in social criticism as well as providing the thrills you expect from the genre.

To go into further detail would do a disservice to anyone who hasn't yet seen it, but if you are a fan of the genre, you must see Audition. It's the first of two Miike films on my list for this month and anticipation has ramped up considerably for Lesson of the Evil.

Blimey.

- Becky

You can find my other Shocktober '15 reviews here.

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