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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Audition: SE
Audition: SE
Ventura // Unrated // June 4, 2002
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by G. Noel Gross | posted June 22, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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CineSchlock-O-Rama

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 (1999, 115 minutes), Takashi Miike's critically-lauded bait 'n' switch terror tale, and Tell Me Something, Chang Youn-Hyun's fresh spin on serial killin'.

The movie: This sucker's one of those flicks that's all about the ending. Not so much in that there's some great revelation, but in how it jerks the wheel and blazes off in a gruesome new direction. Hitch did it nearly 40 years ago with Psycho when he had Norman Bates abruptly ventilate the film's star and hog the rest of the flick for himself. By comparison, Mr. Miike ain't quite so kind as to let his star check off the planet as easily. That's the part it's best not to get into exactly. Let's just say there's some alternative uses of acupuncture needles and elevator shoes aren't the ONLY way to noodle with one's height. But for the first 90 minutes we're drawn into the life of Aoyama (rocker Ryo Ishibashi) a widower whose soup-slurpin' teenage son decides it's time pop start dating again. Instead of cruising the frozen food aisle, or loitering in front of Victoria's Secret, this yahoo decides to hold a phony audition with the help of a movie producer buddy (Jun Kunimura). Of course, Aoyama goes ga-ga for a delicate flower flirting with the notion of being an actress (model Eihi Shiina). Awkward phone calls are exchanged. They meet for coffee. They have dinner. It's like Lady and the Tramp all over again. Except instead of a spaghetti feast the two steal away to a country cottage and play nekkid Twister. From then on Aoyama's pretty much doomed as his squeeze isn't all sugar and spice. Nope, not even close.

Notables: Two breasts. Three corpses. Gratuitous dream sequences. Decapitation. One dead dog. Puking. Multiple mickeys slipped. Implied pedophilia. Creepy wiggling mail sack. Hypodermic closeup. Pervert alert: Japanese schoolgirl AND cheerleader.

Quotables: No sprechen sie Japanese.

Time codes: A delicious fish feast (4:45). First of the actual auditions begin (24:10). Mr. Lonely Heart has the look of love (29:04). First sign of trouble -- and WOO-BOY is it a doozy! (37:10). Wake up gorehounds! Time to get down to business!!! (1:34:00).

Audio/Video: Presented in its original widescreen (1.85:1) format. The transfer isn't particularly remarkable, yet doesn't crater during darker scenes. Bone-chilling Dolby Digital 5.1 audio in Japanese with optional English subtitles.

Extras: Exceptionally slick presentation all around. Keepcase snobs will bristle at the cardboard sleave, but it sure LOOKS cool and is reasonably durable. There's even a printed insert with liner notes by Chris Desjardins. Once inside, the motion video menus take on the feel of Aoyama's audition footage. There's a Q&A with director Takashi Miike (24 mins). He also does a commentary for the last reel of the flick, because that's when all the good stuff happens anyway (32 mins). Trailers for this and upcoming releases. Photo gallery. Breathless tour of Hollywood's renovated Egyptian Theatre (9 mins). Motion video menus with audio.

Final thought: Its aura of sophistication made art-house crowds squirm without feeling as though they were slumming it. CineSchlockers will find it equally memorable. Recommended.

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for additional reviews and bonus features.

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.
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