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E.C. McMullen Jr.
Head Production Designer
JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
Special Effects Make-Up
A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
A child walks down a hospital hall, carrying a gift that asks for his Mother to get well.
A man sits in a hospital room as doctors go about their duties, but nothing they do can stop him from watching his wife die.
The child enters the room and understands that his gift is too late.
Years pass and the boy, Shigehiko (Tetsu Sawaki), grows up. One day he looks at his father and says, "You look dispirited, you should remarry."
The father, Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi: G@ME, MOON CHILD, THE GRUDGE, TRAPPED ASHES, THE GRUDGE 2) glumly considers his son's advice. He doesn't want a woman his own age or just a few years younger. Shigeharu doesn't even recognize the obvious yearning his own secretary feels for him. Shigeharu wants a woman that would be about the same age his wife was when she died. He wonders if he can reset his life again.
When Shigeharu looks at young people he's put off. He can't understand their pleasures. Not just because he's looking at a different generation, but because he's a much older man whose pleasures have matured. How can he possibly find a woman in the modern generation who can relate to his generation and more, his age?
To help him find not just a wife, but love, his good friend, Yoshikawa (Jun Kinemura: KILL BILL VOL. 1, GODZILLA: FINAL WARS), a movie producer, has an idea. Why not hold auditions? Yoshikawa needs to hold auditions anyway and thousands of girls may show up. He'll let Shigeharu sit in on one. Yoshi will find his lead and Shige may find his love. It's unlikely that they'll be the same girl.
Soon photos and resumes are pouring in for the upcoming audition and Shigeharu looks through them all. It's a tedious process, but eventually his attention is drawn to a woman named, Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina: SKY HIGH, TOKYO GORE POLICE, VAMPIRE GIRL vs FRANKENSTEIN GIRL). He finds himself attracted to both her photo and her resume, which is largely nothing but how she feels about trying out for the role and what she thinks of the character. He puts her in the pile for the audition.
"Living is another way of reaching death," she writes. "That's why I want to try out for this role." To a widower who has lived alone for so many years, such simple words are eloquent.
The day of the audition arrives and Shigeharu feels like a criminal, as if he's doing something dishonest. The audition for a movie role is real but he frets about his ulterior motive.
When Shigeharu finally interviews Asami, he is smitten with her. Yoshikawa feels entirely different. There was something about Asami that creeped him right out.
That night, Shigeharu feels the one-sided emptiness of his life more than ever. His son has a girlfriend and is spending more time with her, away from pop. Reluctant, yet caving into his loneliness, he calls Asami. Barely containing his excitement, he arranges a date with her.
No sooner does he hang up in personal victory than Yoshikawa calls. He couldn't help himself, he started investigating Asami through her references. What he discovered doesn't send up a red flag, but it is a bit unsettling.
Everything about Asami intoxicates Shigeharu. Her simple prettiness, her introverted, shy nature. Her seeming lack of friends only serves to make Shigeharu feel more protective of her. Her talk of death only reminds Shigeharu of his own loss and he desires to heal the wound in Asami. Shigeharu finds her beautiful, classy, and obedient, all the traits that fit with his generation's idea of ideal.
Meanwhile, all of her talk of death and her untraceable past only serves to further unsettle Yoshikawa and he worries for his friend. This young woman is wrong somehow. He doesn't know how exactly, but something isn't right. But it's too late: Shigeharu is in love.
At one hour and 55 minutes, Director Takashi Miike (Masters of Horror: IMPRINT) unfolds AUDITION at precisely the right pace. Renown among gorehounds for movies that seemingly make you actually FEEL the pain inflicted on its characters, Miike achieves this by first getting his audience thoroughly involved in his characters.
He gives us brief peeks into Asami's dead puppet life: Shigeharu's feelings of foolishness as love and its passions and fears re-enter his world.
The pace is leisurely. 30 minutes in, there is a creepy scene of Asami and her world. It is well lit, mundane, she is there, still as a doll, with common furniture and a full cloth bag laying on the floor. It all seems so unlived.
Later, we see the same scene again and, without a single drip of gore, without a second of anything happening that would earn a rating any higher than a G, Takashi pulls something so breathtakingly unexpected that the movie gets its first What the Hell Was THAT?!? moment. From then on, this riveting roller coaster ride is still calmly clackety-clacking up the hill. Only now you are aware of the terrifying drop inexorably approaching.
Hell yeah that moment is a jump!
And unlike some silly ass Hollywood cat jump or shadow & bang past the lens, this one is real, earned, and it underlines a hideous deadly meaning to everything that comes after.
Shigeharu is being swallowed alive and he doesn't know it.
AUDITION slowly builds to an emotional and visceral gut punch of an ending. I saw it coming, but by the time I realized how horrific it would be, I couldn't look away.
You haven't seen Takashi Miike's AUDITION? Holy crap! If you like scary, unnerving movies, you GOTTA see AUDITION! Among the Masters of Horror, Takashi Miike is a grand master!
5 Shriek Girls.
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