Written by Jason Fox.
Audition is a masterpiece of horror by Takashi Miike, one of the most seasoned veteran directors in Japan. Alongside Ringu (1998), it is quite rightly seen as the quintessential J-Horror film. Ringu’s success comes from his uncanny, almost clinical ability to terrify his audience. Audition is different.
Although it certainly doesn’t lack the ability to frighten, Audition’s appeal is its social commentary. It paints a damning picture of objectification and fetishisation of women in Japanese society. In a similar vein, it is also an incredibly upsetting, sometimes sickening, portrait of the lingering effects of abuse, and the exercise of brutal revenge by the victim. The result is one of the most traumatic, but satisfying viewing experiences you’ll get from a horror film. Audition is something that should be seen as approaching the very best of the genre.
Audition focuses on a wealthy middle aged man, seemingly the embodiment of the Japanese entrepreneur, who, having lost his wife seven years prior, starts searching for someone new. However, conventional dating approaches seem lost on him. He endeavours to hold auditions for a TV role to be filled by a young woman, with the aim of dating whoever he finds the most attractive.
Of course, this ends up backfiring horribly, as he encounters an extremely dangerous and vengeful woman who gives him a lot more than he bargained for. The feminist allegory here is obvious. While, on paper, the horror in this film would appear to stem from the female villain, it casts a far more nuanced eye over the situation. It goes into detail about why she is the way she is, and how almost every man in her life contributed to her suffering. This is sometimes truly horrifying.
Audition finds ways of presenting violence against women in an incredibly abstract manner that only adds to its disturbing nature. Amplifying this is its presentation of everyday misogyny. This film highlights the trauma faced by women in Japan, both extreme and everyday, and exacts revenge with its own brand of brutality.
What makes this film so outstanding is how perfectly it depicts its antagonist. Eihei Shiina, who plays the young woman Asahi, gives an incredible performance that emphasises all the nuances of her character while also managing to remain very believable and human. She is simultaneously a figure of vulnerability and power, inviting empathy as well as terror. What makes her character so remarkable is how well she is able to weaponise her vulnerability. Although subject to abuse and serious trauma, she refuses to allow herself to become a victim in this film. Instead she becomes an embodiment of vengeance, inflicting pain on the cruel world surrounding her.
Audition is a near perfect horror film and is essential for any fan of the genre. The horror comes hand in hand with brilliant social commentary and satire that shows Miike’s ability to manipulate his audience. It paints a disturbingly realistic picture of society where women are constantly objectified and ignored and face violence as an everyday phenomenon. Having manifested this, it then delights in exacting revenge on this very system.