31 Days of Horror: Audition (1999) – REVIEW

What is it about me and critically acclaimed horrors that means we just don’t gel? Audition is the latest in an ever-lengthening line of films that has turned out to be a major let-down. Admittedly, I didn’t hold out much hope seeing as this was my second attempt to get through it – I threw in the towel about 40 minutes in a few months ago. However, this time, I was determined to stick with it to the bitter end. Now that I’ve seen the full thing, I can comfortably say I have absolutely no idea why so many people are so crazy about this film. I have never been more underwhelmed.

The story follows a widower (Ryo Ishibashi) in search of a new wife. After sharing his plight with a movie producer friend, the pair hatch a plan to hold auditions for a new film so that he might swoop in and scoop one of the actresses who narrowly miss out on the lead role. However, the one he sets his sights on (Eihi Shiina) is not all she appears to be.


The thing with Audition is it starts fairly interestingly

The premise of one man’s desperate search for a wife turning sour is great. There is so much potential within that particular vein of storytelling. Things could have gone in literally any direction, so why it took probably the dullest route possible is beyond me. Audition went about things like it was entitled to my time and attention, chipping away with a painful lack of speed. But I stuck with it. At some point, the film would surely turn on its head and become one of those ‘hunter becomes the hunted’ stories. Readers, it did not.

Instead, the limp we were presented with at the beginning downgraded to a crawl. What’s worse is this is pretty much how things remained for the rest of the film. It really was just a story about a lonely, slightly desperate man for a good three-quarters of its runtime. Any intrigue that had been there at the beginning was drawn out for so long that it disinterested me after a while. There are slow-burning films, and then there’s this. Audition really took that description to a whole other level.

And for what?

Surely such an unbearably slow build-up would result in an explosive ending? Apparently I was wrong about that as well. Audition has such a bizarre climax in the sense that it doesn’t really join up with the rest of the story that well. The final 30 minutes or so are a world apart from everything that comes beforehand. It’s like the footage for two completely different films has been mixed up somewhere in post-production and everyone just decided to go with it.


As for what actually goes down in that infamous closing half-hour… Well… Let’s just say I saw things that I had absolutely no business seeing. It was so unnecessary, and that’s coming from someone who loves over-the-top visuals that cause you to shrink into the furniture. Yes, it was uncomfortable and I winced on more than one occasion, but it didn’t have anywhere near the impact I’d wanted it to. It brought zero satisfaction, and I desperately needed that after the absolute trek it had taken to reach that point.

A huge disconnect didn’t help

Audition’s lead characters were impossible for me to engage with. Aoyama underwent some disturbing processes in order to get the one thing in the world he wanted more than anything. Meanwhile, Asami was so plain until she fully derailed at the end of the film, by which point I’d lost interest anyway.

I also noticed quite a dramatic lack of score in this film. There was little reliance on music to build atmosphere. Instead, Audition used a lot of silence and ambient sound to fill the spaces in between words. It was something I noticed with Ring too, so I’m wondering if this is common with Japanese cinema. Either way, it showed me how much storytelling is done through accompanying music as opposed to just dialogue and visuals.


I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something

Maybe I’m thick, or I’m not tuned into horror on a deeper level, but Audition did absolutely nothing for me. It dragged its feet for two hours before culminating in that scene that I couldn’t see the point of. Or should I say, I saw the point, but I’m questioning whether it was really the best way of getting that point across. I don’t know… Answers on a postcard, people. I can’t think about this film anymore.

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