I consider myself a rather hard-boiled horror fan. True, there are times when its dark and I find myself in a situation a slight bit too similar to a slasher flick I've seen. Regardless, I consider myself fairly hard to scare, a jaded cynic, if you will. Of course, I wasn't always like this, but I'll save that flashback for another day. Luckily there's still movies that can reduce me to a twitching, whimpering heap, in hindsight I'm not sure how lucky that is, especially with films like this.
Enter Audition, by Takashi Miike, yup, that's right. Good old Mr. Miike, the man who gave us Imprint and Koroshiya 1. I'm guessing you can guess where this goes from here, but let's do the formalities anyway. Audition is the story of a middle-aged widower who together with a friend arranges fake movie auditions to find a woman fit to mary, and although he does, she's not quite what she appears to be.
By itself, this doesn't sound like much of a horror concept. Romantic comedy or drama, maybe, or even wacky American Pie-ripoff comedy with a few changes. The low horror-concentration stays low for quite a large bit of the movie too, mostly focusing on the characters and their loneliness, said loneliness seeming to be a rather central theme, backed up by the statement that "In Japan, everyone is lonely" (translated and probably paraphrased.)
Then, well, I'll let the poster speak for itself as to why this movie freaked me out to the point where I mumbled incoherently about needles and llamas. Anyone afraid of needles need not apply, so why I watched it is beyond me. It's not like Miike's tendency to have prolonged needle-jabbing torture scenes in his movies came to a complete surprise, seeing as Imprint and Ichi the Killer have had much of the same. Audition, however, is easily the most disturbing instances of needle-torture I've seen, much thanks to the torturist, the seemingly meek and kind Asami.
I don't know if y'all have heard the expression "Yandere," but it's basically a seemingly nice girl who's obsessed to the point of violence (or torture,) the word comes from Japanese (no surprise there,) and in Japan, it's sort of a twisted extreme version of the ideal woman, what you'd get if you unleashed the wishmaster djinn upon a japanese dating site. A yandere is the ex from hell, she might have a good reason for being as she is, but she's still scary, very scary. Maybe most unnervingly of all, when the full extent of Asami's madness becomes clear, she still remains the same sweet, calm person she's always been, except now certain signs (see DVD cover above) she's plotting your murder, or worse. It'd be far less scary if she just erupted into a lovecraftian horror or something like that, but no, she just keeps the same serene smile while doing inventive but horrible things with needles and piano wire.
I have kind of a hard time getting over exactly how frightening Asami is. Sure, you can kinda see how she got there, what with pedophile sadist ballet teacher, various abusive guardians, the injury, possibly inflicted by one of the above, that prevented her from doing ballet, the one thing that made her feel good, and did I mention the ballet teacher, anyway, all this does little to make her more sympatic. If anything, she's got a slight "tragic monster"-vibe to her, but it's not exactly the pathos of her character that sticks. That would be the needles, no pun intended, or Asami's... catchphrase "Kiri kiri kiri," or that horrible squish/squelch-noise that Miike uses to tell us "yes, she stuck a needle in him, and it hurt." I'm actually kind of curious what sound that is, being an aspiring horror maker myself. Then again, that just might be one of those things I'm not meant to know.