A Successful Audition for the Darwin Award

by Raymond H

Or, why Shigeharu Aoyama is the stupidest horror movie protagonist Raymond has ever seen
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Today's song comes from a much better movie than the one I will be discussing. You should watch it instead.


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Let me tell you a tale. It all started in the summer of ’17. That was the summer I was on a horror movie binge, when I watched such greats as The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby for the first time. And then one day, purely by accident, I stumbled across a little horror movie called Audition. Hey, this looks neat, I thought. It was by a famous Japanese director whose filmography I’d barely viewed, it was going for cheap at the local rental place, and my parents seemed enthusiastic about it. Why not? So Friday night, with freshly-made popcorn and bright-eyed enthusiasm, my parents and I sat down to see what Audition had to offer.

What followed was the worst family movie night experience since The Lobster[1].

First off, I should admit the role of some bias on my part. You see, Audition, whilst ostensibly horror, happens to be my absolute least favorite type of horror: the gross-out gorefest. It is my firmly-held belief that the best kind of horror elicits dread, a suspenseful buzz that quickens the pulse and heightens the heartrate, a steady flow of unease, if you will. To break that buzz with jump scares and shocking imagery is bad enough, but to completely transform it into disgust and nausea utterly defeats the point and demeans the genre, in my humble opinion.

My own snooty genre proclivities aside though, there is another, far deeper problem with Audition, that being its protagonist. You see, he is an idiot. Now, you gotta understand, I’m not talking about your average, run-of-the-mill moron. No no, I mean he’s a grade-a, stone-cold, dyed-in-the-wool dingbat. He’s a nitwit, a ninny, a schnook, a schlemiel. Why he’s the stupidest horror protagonist I ever done seen, and I’ve seen a fair few in my day.

Now come on Raymond, you sigh. You’re not being very sporting here, are you? You say this man is an idiot, and yet you’ve given no evidence to back this up. And besides, horror protagonists get accused of being stupid all the time. What makes your criticism any different from those butthurt dudebros complaining about those waily slasher protagonists, apart from the blonde hair and pom-poms?

To this I say, good, fine, a well and valid point. But remember, the entire premise of those slasher films is that a group of young, hormonally addled teenagers are systematically hunted down and murdered one by one, oftentimes within a secluded and isolated environment. Given such circumstances, I can at least suspend my disbelief enough to buy a high-school cheerleader acting somewhat irrational once she realizes she’s next on the kill list. What I can’t accept is this baka acting just as irrational and clueless, if not MORE so, than said cheerleader even BEFORE anything weird or horrifying happens.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I should probably explain the plot first. Okay, so there’s this guy, Aoyama. He’s a middle-aged widower and single father, who keeps getting pestered by friends and family to get back in the dating game. He’s reluctant at first, but then one day a friend of his, who just so happens to be a television producer, comes over to him and says “Hey! Guess what? We are currently holding auditions for the new leading lady in our latest teledrama, and I want you to show up. See, in these kinds of things, we go through hundreds of applicants, many of whom are quite nice and very attractive. And I figure, hey, only one woman can get the part, but there’s no reason the other girls should go home empty-handed. Eh? Eh? Come on, surely there’s gotta be at least someone there you’ll hit it off with.”

Aoyama, in his usual fashion, responds with an “Um, uh, well, um…” This will be a recurring habit of his.

So finally, after being dragged to the audition (ah, d’you seee?)[2] Aoyama sets his sights on one lady in particular, Asami, a beautiful (albeit kind of creepy), young (to an ephebic degree), and soft-spoken (you can never tell what she’s thinking) ballerina (whose teacher disappeared under mysterious circumstances). Now, you or I can easily see that, despite being quite a catch, Asami is setting off a few red flags right from the get-go. And indeed, Aoyama’s buddy explicitly says “Hey man, I know she’s cute and all, but like, you might want to be careful going into all this is all I’m saying.” But Aoyama is of course having none of that and completely ignores all the other candidates.

Now, okay, I could possibly forgive that. Lord knows countless men and women have taken similarly stupid plunges in the name of getting nookie, and hey, if Aoyama didn’t go for Asami, we wouldn’t have a story, would we? Here’s the thing though. This is not the only warning sign he receives over the course of the movie. Indeed, you could reasonably say that the first 90 minutes of this film are nothing but a series of increasingly disturbing warning signs which Aoyama ignores. And not only ignores, but outright fails to even react to!

Let me break it down for you. Pretty early on, Aoyama’s buddy pulls him aside and says “Hey man, c’mere, lemme talk t’you fer a sec. Listen, I dunno how t’tell y’this, but none of the gal’s references check out. Like, none of ’em. At all. So like, I think you should maybe just, like, be careful or something. You know, just exercise a little caution, maybe wait a while before you call her next.”

Aoyama, in his usual fashion, responds with an “Um, uh, well, um…” and then immediately proceeds to call Asami.

We are then treated to this.

Now, to be fair, Aoyama doesn’t see the bag-man, so this is entirely within the realms of information given to us the audience which is not given to the protagonist. But you know what is given to him? Well for starts, there’s his son saying “Hey dad, listen I’m real happy for you and all, but I just feel like maybe you’re rushing into things a bit.”, there’s his friend (again) saying “Dude! Seriously! This girl is bad news! Abort! Abort!”, oh yeah, and there’s the GHOST OF HIS DEAD WIFE coming to him in a dream and explicitly screaming “RUN! IF YOU VALUE THE CURRENT ARRANGEMENT OF YOUR TESTICLES RUN! RUN THE FUCK AWAY FROM THIS BITCH! SHE’S CRAZY I TELL YOU! CRAAAZYYY!!!”

Now, if you or I were faced with such advice from friends and family, we might stop and think “Huh, maybe I should reconsider the current trajectory of this relationship.” If an ordinary horror protagonist was faced with it, they might stop and think “Huh, maybe I should reconsider the current trajectory of this…nah, let’s give it one more date.” However, Aoyama is no ordinary fellow, nor is he an ordinary horror protagonist. He’s the stupidest horror protagonist I ever done seen, and his reaction to all these warnings is to try tracking Asami down to her house. There are many ways to deal with a potential serial killer. Going in alone and unprotected into their headquarters without backup or even telling anyone is not one of them.

Of course, there is one slight problem with Aoyama's plan. Remember, none of Asami’s references check out, so Aoyama only has a few tenuous leads to go on in his search. Fortunately he finds answers pretty quickly. Unfortunately…ugh…

So he goes to this bar that Asami says she works at. He finds it abandoned. When he asks about, the local expositor explains “What? That bar? Oh, yeah, there was a really gruesome murder there, a while back. Yeah, there was a young woman, and a guy, and the guy slept with the mama at the bar, and then one morning the cops found the bar drenched in blood. It’s weird, they didn’t find any bodies, but they identified the blood as belonging to the guy and the mama. Oh yeah, and they found an eye and three fingers. The young woman disappeared. Man, it’s so weird, but I mean, it’s not like the young woman sounds exactly like your girlfriend or anything, hahaha! Hohoho! Peace.”

Now…if you were in that position, what would you do? Run? Forget Asami? Plunge forward for the sake of getting some? All fine and good responses. Now…now uh, now tell me…what do you think Aoyama, in his…infinite wisdom, does? Hm? HMM?

“Sigh”

Aoyama, in his usual fashion, responds with an “Um, uh, well, um…” And then…then he goes to a dance studio that Asami supposedly frequents. Only to find, oh, wow, it’s completely abandoned and boarded up. Who could have possibly seen that coming?

So anyways, Aoyama hears piano music coming from the studio, so he breaks in, and inside he finds an elderly man sitting in a wheelchair, playing the piano in the corner of a darkened dance-room. No-one else is around. The man looks like he’s been there for who knows how long. Suddenly, as Aoyama steps into the room, the man halts his playing, and glances up. Slowly he turns, and sees a frightened Aoyama, breath bated in surprise. Then, a sick, slimy grin splays across the old man’s face, and with teetering, arthritic hands, he rolls his way over to our hero.

“So…tell me,” the old man rasps, his voice cracked and hoarse with perverted delight. “Did…you taste her flesh? Mehah. Mehahahah! Mahahahahah! Did…you smell her skin? Mahahah! Mahahahah! Meheheheh…fool. You are doomed. Doomed! DOOMED! MAHAHAH! MAHAHAHAHA! MA-HAHA-HAHAAAH!”

This time Aoyama doesn’t respond. No, seriously. Where others might flee in terror or proclaim “Old man, you be tripping.”, Aoyama…does nothing. He exits the ballet studio in the exact same state of mind as when he entered. He completely, utterly, and inconceivably refuses to even acknowledge what just occurred. Great Belin man! Are you for real? Give us something, anything! Even an “Um, uh, well, um…” would be satisfactory. But no, no! Instead Aoyama’s only thoughts are “Huh. I wonder where Asami is.” Are you serious? Are you genuinely, legitimately serious at this point, Aoyama? Sweet baby Jesus man, no amount of half-your-age nookie can possibly justify this level of willful stupidity! Are you really, really going to do this?

Aoyama, in his usual fashion, responds with an “Um, uh, well, um…”

It was at this point my parents and I began exchanging bewildered glances.

Then he comes home and finds Asami’s killed his dog and OMIGOD NO! NOOO! HOW COULD YOU TAKASHI MIIKE? HOW COULD YOU? GOD FUCKING DAMMIT! I FUCKING REMEMBER WHEN THE DOG FIRST APPEARED IN THIS GODDAMN FILM AND MY HEART SKIPPED A LITTLE BEAT AND I PRAYED “Oh please Lord. Please, kill the boy, kill the housekeeper, kill the protagonist for God’s sake, but don’t, for the love of God, don’t kill the dog.” AND THE DOG IS THE ONLY ONE TO FUCKING DIE IN THE WHOLE FUCKING MOVIE AND

Oooh, you cry. Duh! Buh! Raymond! Ssspoiiileeers! For a movie that was released in 1999! Which is mostly known for the massive orgy of death and violence in the last 20 minutes of its runtime! Well fuck you! This is a tale, goddammit! I’ll spoil whatever the hell I like! You want a review, go read Armond fucking White!

Anyways, where was I? Ah yes, so Asami slips something into Aoyama’s drink, he trips balls for a couple minutes, during which time we are treated to the fate of that guy (you know, the one in the bag who slept with the mama), the old man, oh yeah, and we find out what the deal with Aoyama’s secretary was. For real dude, what the hell? Oh yeah, also we get to witness the most uncomfortable blowjob scene in the history of cinema! Nobody enjoyed that scene, least of all you. What else? Ah, of course, how stupid of me. Asami cuts off Aoyama’s foot in lovingly rendered, crystal clear, high definition.

It was at this point my father left the living room.

My mother and I, more out of spite than anything else at this point, figured we’d see the film through to the end, and honestly, even in my current, spoilery mindset, I can’t be bothered to give the ending away. Partly because I still have some spoiler scruples, partly because it’s so bland and predictable you can see it coming a mile away, and partly because…I just don’t want to. Suffice it to say, things turn out alright in the end. I mean, there was all that gross-out stuff, which I don’t recommend even for you gorefest aficionados, but apart from that, and, y’know, the whole foot thing, Aoyama is none the worse for wear, and is already planning to tell this latest crazy ex story at the next work outing[3].

Normally after a family movie night, my family and I like to chat about the movie. You know, what we liked, what we didn’t like, that sort of thing. This time, my mother and I remained in silence as we took the disc out, put it back in the case, and turned the tv off. When we walked upstairs to the dining room, we found my father sipping a mug of tea, like some men would swig a flask of brandy after a harrowing day’s work.

“So,” he grunted. “Did we ever find out why she was…y’know, the way she was?”

And, strange as it may seem, it wasn’t until then that I realized, Audition isn’t actually a good movie. Seriously, my own distaste for gorefests aside, this is a bad film. I’ve seen plenty of people say this is a feminist movie, which casts a critical lens on the patriarchal society of Japan and like, smashes all these preconceptions about women and fights for their rights and I call bullshit, for three main reasons.

Number one, the only thing Aoyama is ever really punished for is getting involved with the wrong sort of woman. Not the audition itself, not the way he treated the actual nice women that he said he was looking for, not for wanting to bang an ephebic ballerina or his son’s teenage girlfriend, no, simply for getting involved with a “crazy” girl.

Number two, Asami doesn’t seem to be motivated by anything other than petty jealousy in her revenge methods. Remember, she killed the mama at the bar, whom you could reasonably say was as much a victim of the guy’s womanizing ways as Asami was. And as for the guy himself, Asami’s torture of him is expressly designed to make him totally dependent on her, not to punish him for straying, but to make herself more valuable to him so that he won’t ever want to stray. And finally, this leads to the biggest reason.

Number three, we never get any explanation for why Asami is the way she is. There is a cursory comment about how because she was abused as a child she came to believe that love and pain were inseparable and can you see how deep and philosophical this movie is but it’s an esoteric bluff. At the end of the day, it doesn’t alter our perception of her in any meaningful way. She’s still a crazy serial killer, who kills dogs and mutilates men for shits and giggles. This explanation doesn’t serve to make us empathize with her. Just the opposite, it makes her even creepier, and drives the point that she’s a villain that needs to be stopped even further home. In the end, the only explanation we really get is that same, old, tired cliché: That bitch is crazy.

In the end, there are some interesting themes and concepts in Audition, but the movie never really goes anywhere interesting or says anything meaningful with them, instead always choosing to take the easiest, goriest, most juvenile way out. Anything great in the movie is snuffed out by disinterested shrugs and handwaves, and all that’s left is sex and violence. It’s rather like going to a classical music concert, where midway through the concerto the pianist suddenly screams “FUCK EVERYTHING!”, throws a cat onto the keyboard, sets the piano on fire, guns the remaining orchestra down, cackles as the concert hall explodes, and then shoot the cat in the knee after it tries to sue[4]. I know the movie is based off a book, and maybe that does a better job handling the ideas the story puts forward, but honestly, with an audition like this, I don’t think I’m gonna call this story back anytime soon.

It’s funny. I’m sure there’s a moral to be learned from this tale. I just have no idea what it is. Maybe it’s don’t disrespect women. Maybe it’s bitches be crazy. But personally, I think the best moral this tale has to offer is this: Know what you’re getting into. Please, if you take nothing else from this, just remember that. Know what you are getting into.

[1] We thought it was a romantic comedy, okay? The synopsis made it sound like a wacky romantic comedy!
[2] Yes, yes, YES! Since day ONE I have been waiting to say that and now I've finally done it! Haha! やった!
[3] Where he’ll probably sleep with his new secretary and toss her aside just as callously seriously what the hell dude?
[4] Seriously, in all its 60 cat years in the industry it’s never been treated this badly, not once! 60 cat years! And that’s like, 11 human years!
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