North American horror hounds are naturally drawn to foreign cinema. Mostly because Hollywood is fairly skittish in its dealings in the genre, especially when it comes to the red stuff. While overseas, they don't feel the need to rationalize with terms like "psychological thriller" -- they simply make straight-up HORROR movies. Many are far more sophisticated than Hollywood's cookie-cutter slashers and that, in part, is why they're so embraced by stateside grue connoisseurs. Italy's long been a fount of such work, but in recent years, Asian pictures have risen to prominence with unflinching, stylized explorations of human fears and depravity. Which brings us to this discussion of Audition, Takashi Miike's critically-lauded bait 'n' switch terror tale, and Tell Me Something (1999, 116 minutes), Chang Youn-Hyun's fresh spin on serial killin'.
The movie: It's a time-worn angle, the maverick cop who gets himself in a fix that could send him packing, except he's the ONLY one with the street cred to solve a high-profile case. This time it's Lieutenant Cho (Han Suk-gyu) who's called to a murder scene of what's believed to be one victim until they realize all the parts don't match up. It's the work of a serial killer who dismembers his prey with surgical precision, then swaps one fella's head and another's legs to create a third, nearly impossible to I.D. corpse. Creative, eh? Thankfully, Cho's a sharp guy, so it doesn't take long for him to root out the name of one of the corpses, who happens to be a former beau of Suyeon Chae (Shim Eun-ha). Wait, here's where it gets weirder, as it turns out she'd known ALL the victims and Cho is certain she and her surviving friends are NEXT in line for involuntary appendage swapping. What's particularly fun, is that the killer leaves these body parts in garbage bags around town. They're like water balloons for this homicidal maniac. One bursts, spilling blood and remains over shrieking passengers in a crowded elevator. Another is left on the highway, splatters a truck, and causes a massive accident. Once the whole mess is sorted out, what appears to be a romantic epilogue begins, but CineSchlockers should hang in as there's more than what appears in store.
Notables: No breasts. Eight corpses. Multiple amputations. Gratuitous interrogation scene. Severed head in a sack. Killer cam. Peeping. Gratuitous dream sequence. Fork lift to the gut. Implied pedophilia. Human Popsicle. Gratuitous doomed sidekick.
Quotables: No sprechen sie Korean.
Time codes: First blood with the gruesome spectacle of a scalpel sliding through human flesh (2:02). Should have used a GLAD bag! (11:57). Wicked pile up on the highway is an excellent reminder against tailgating (1:03:45).
Audio/Video: Presented in widescreen (1.77:1 despite what the box cover states). Image quality wains and dust spots are common. Rumbling Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are available in the original Korean (with optional subtitles) or an English dub.
Extras: Extensive photo gallery. Theatrical trailer. Motion video menus with audio. Printed insert with track listing.
Final thought: Sly twists on convention make this an atypical and riveting serial-killer yarn. Recommended.
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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.