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Looking back with fresh eyes: How grotesque is ‘Audition’ 20 years later?

‘Audition’ was seen as one of the most horrific movies of all time when it was first released.

Arrow Video
Price: $22.97
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Released in 1999, Takashi Miike’s Audition became an instant phenomenon. Loved by horror fans and filmmakers, the fim brought something new to the burgeoning J horror genre. The movie was gory and controversial and left a legacy that lasts through today. Audition tells the story of Shigeharu Aoyama, a widower being pressured by his son and friends to remarry. When Aoyama holds auditions to for a new girlfriend, he finds more than he was looking for.

It sounds like a simple story – partially because it is – but what would someone re-watching it 20 years later say? And what about someone who has never seen it?

Story

 

Rewatch: The first time I watched Audition, I had heard the hype. Hell, it was the main reason I watched it to being with. Even though I try my best to avoid expectations going into a movie, there was no way I could do it with this one. The famous picture that is always shown is enough for anyone with enough imagination to form ideas.

What I did not plan to see was a slow paced love story. Audition is often times funny and can even be touching. One can even make the argument it is almost too slow at times. The most notorious scenes almost come out of nowhere. There is a clear build to the climax, but the pacing of the whole thing just seems odd.

Watching Audition a second time, I was able to appreciate Miike’s storytelling more. The story leading up to the ending is well told and sad. By the time you reach the shocking finale, it is not just about the torture; you have a true feel for the characters. This does not necessarily make it a better movie but I found the whole experience more powerful.

First time: My wife had never seen Audition. She had heard about it and seen the picture everybody had but knew nothing else. She has watched one Miike movie (Dead or Alive) and was blown away. That movie was a balls to the wall fever dream and she had never even heard of it. 

Audition completely shocked her. The methodical pacing was unexpected. (DOA includes people literally eating crap so I am not sure what she expected). The story is also very endearing at times. She knew something was wrong with Asami almost immediately and even before the climax, the movie definitely has its grotesque moments. Still, it was much tamer.

Miike has a perverse sense of humor. Audition made her laugh at times, but she was never really sure if it was because it was funny or absurd. The premise itself is pretty out there (and is topical considering the popularity of online dating sites), plus the mystery will keep you engaged. Audition is weird, but lacks the charm of DOA.

Oh, the horror

Rewatch: It would not be unfair to say that Audition became so widely known thanks to its last fifteen minutes. Along with the iconic pose that is familiar to even those who have not seen the movie, the scene itself is very powerful. How powerful? Before audiences get to the infamous scenes, there are moments involving removed digits, a person being forced to eat another person’s bodily fluids, and a severed tongue. I had forgotten about every one of them.

The finale is horrific. Even though I knew what was coming, my stomach was in knots. I had my shirt in my mouth and even considered looking away. I thought about closing my eyes. After all, I had already seen it and would not be missing anything. There was only one difference this time. Through each disgusting moment I found myself asking, “Is Aoshi a strong woman?” (No; she is just batshit crazy.)

First time: Gasps and uneasy laughter. My wife’s reactions to the last fifteen minuets of Audition alternated between the two. She knew she was in for something horrible; she even thought it may be a little gross. But nothing prepared her for the infamous finale.

The final moments of Audition are just as bad as any torture porn that has ever been released. My wife was disgusted by everything that had just transpired. Though it was a steady stream of violence, it never seemed gratuitous and you never become numb to it. The whole sequence plays out in an odd way that makes it difficult to understand. However, one thing is for certain: Audition’s worst moments can easily stand up to the most shocking moments in horror history.

Verdict

Whether it is your first time or a repeat viewing, twenty years after its initial release, Audition holds up as one of the most disgusting movies of all time. If you have not done so already, definitely check it out and see for yourself.

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