Short Reviews: Audition (1999)



Kiri kiri kiri kiri…

We set our scene in the distant land of 2002. I was 12 going on 13 and had just started really ramping up my curiosity in horror movies. They still had the ability to scare me then, but it was wearing off. I’d discovered the fun of being scared, and I wanted more. I turned to the internet and to message boards where people would discuss the movies they thought the scariest, the most horrific or the most disturbing.

One film kept being mentioned…Audition.

Few people would talk about it openly. Responses were usually “Audition ruined me” or “Jesus Christ, Audition.” I started noticing it in film review magazines, and how the words “harrowing” and “nerve-wracking” kept on being bandied about. Curiosity – officially piqued. A curiosity that was hampered by its R18+ rating and two parents who would never allow me to hire it if I came across it.

Enter the bravest warrior in the fight to support exposing kids to inappropriate material – SBS. By chance, flipping through a TV guide, I saw that they were screening Audition in the witching hour of 2am. I surreptitiously set the VCR to record, and the next night, once my mother had gone to bed early, I popped it in and watched.

I was confused. This was a story about a lonely widower, holding a fake audition so he could meet a new woman. They met, they romanced. It was a slow, bittersweet movie (12-year-old-me didn’t pick up on the building tension). Why was this so horrific?

Then I found out.

The story of Aoyama meeting the demure Asami at an audition she doesn’t know is real is deceptive. It lulls you in with one story, and doesn’t so much turn the tables on the viewer as it does flip it into your unsuspecting face. Asami is not quite what she seems. Her mysterious past has answers that Aoyama discovers far too late. She has a certain knack with needles that he discovers only too well.

Audition is spoken of in such pensive awe because of its final act, a scene of such unrelenting brutality that it’s hard to remember much of the movie beforehand. I’m not going to ruin it here – its impact is too powerful.

It disturbed the hell out of me. I finished watching it, pulled the hands clasped at my mouth away, and immediately taped over the film with a blank TV channel. I didn’t sleep that night. I sat wide-eyed in my bed trying to comprehend the movie I’d just seen. It was the first movie to traumatise me at an age where I brought it on myself (when I was 7, Twister made me scared of windy days – I don’t think that counts).

I watched Audition again tonight. In crisp DVD clarity, I still understand how I felt back then. It was the first movie that made me aware of the power of horror movies.

And for that, I am thankful.


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