This is a very strange 'horror' movie from Japanese director Takashi Miike, who also directed Ichi the Killer. It's probably most famous for its final fifteen to twenty minutes (which are, admittedly, difficult to watch), but it's also remarkable because it doesn't seem like a horror movie at all for most of its running time. In fact, if you were flipping through the channels and somehow stumbled upon a broadcast of Audition (unlikely, given some of its content), you'd easily mistake it for a lightweight romantic-comedy. This, of course, is part of the film's genius: it spends so much time and energy lulling its viewers into a drowsy complacency that the ending arrives like a sucker punch.
Audition is the story of a widower named Aoyama who, after seven years of loneliness, finally decides that he is ready to find a new wife. His slithery friend Yoshikawa, a film industry executive, suggests that the two hold an audition—ostensibly for a part in a new romantic film, but actually for the real-world role of Aoyama's wife. Aoyama is instantly smitten with one of the actresses—a shy former ballerina named Asami. The two quickly form a romantic attachment, but there are hints here and there along the way that something is not quite right with Asami... (which may be the understatement of the year).
Takashi Miike is an interesting director. He's actually more of a factory than an artist (which isn't to say the two are mutually exclusive, of course); he's directed forty—yes, you read that correctly: forty!—feature-length films since 2000, and that doesn't include his work on Japanese television. Miike's a busy guy. Unfortunately, this means that many of his films are not quite as polished as they might otherwise be if he had a more manageable work schedule.
Audition is a great concept for a film, but the execution could use some tightening-up, some honing, and maybe a little more thought. The ending is effective in the way it is intended to be; I just wish the lead-up were a little more engaging and affecting... It would have made the sucker punch all the more potent—and on more levels than just shock value.