Audition (1999)

No film poster today as my laptop is playing up 😦

Audition opens with the death of Shigeharu Aoyama’s wife leaving him to care for their only son, Shigehiko. Seven years later and Shigehiko is your typical teenager who suggests (or rather bluntly tells his father) that he should find a new wife. His son’s suggestion gets into Shigeharu’s head and with the help of his friend, Yasuhisa he sets out on the hunt for a new wife. Yasuhisa is a film producer and helps shy Shigeharu put on a series of auditions for a fake film in order to meet women. Out of all the women that apply Shigeharu is drawn to Asami Yamazaki, played by Eihi Shiina (Helldriver).

Things seem to be going well for the pair but Yasuhisa becomes suspicious when he cannot get in contact with any of the referees on Asami’s resume. He confides his feelings to Shigeharu but with no hard evidence they fall on deaf ears with the blossoming romance proceeding at an ever increasing speed.

Audition has a very clear beginning, middle and end structure. It spends a lot of time setting the scene and letting the audience get to know Shigeharu. Ryo Ishibashi (Suicide Club, The Grudge) does a great job portraying the lonely widower Shigeharu and his search for companionship. The first half of the film feels more like a romantic drama than a horror film complete with floating musical score. It is only after they spend a night together and Asami disappears that things get steadily darker.

I have watched Audition a couple of times and I still have to look away at the end. Director Takashi Miike (Ichi The Killer) is unrelentless in the graphic realistic nature of what Asami inflicts on Shigeharu. Although brutal, the violence fits completely in with the plot of the film and doesn’t feel gratuitous. It is a very compelling watch that I would recommend to anyone who can stomach it.

Rating: 5/5



Nine Dead (2010)


Nine Dead has a fairly simple premise; nine strangers are put in a room and one is killed at random every ten minutes until they figure out how they are connected. The strangers are from all walks of life, from a catholic priest to a strip club owning loan shark via a Chinese shop owner who doesn’t speak English and a slimey paedophile. It also includes a feisty district attorney played by Melissa Joan Hart aka Sabrina the teenage witch and her ex, a cop played by William Lee Scott (The Butterfly Effect). For strangers who have been kidnapped over the course of several days they are remarkably clean and well looked after and not particularly panicked about being held hostage. The main issue I have with the film however is the reaction of the hostages. Instead of trying to find out the connection, most of them spend the time complaining and moaning about each other.

Nine Dead is Chris Shadley’s first feature film as director and I think it shows, there was much more that could be developed in the film, particularly the back stories of the patients. There is some uses of flashbacks to explain the connection, but they could have been utilised more thoroughly in fleshing out the characters and building up tension. However, the plot and particularly the connection between the hostages was very good, I didn’t work it out until right at the end.

As with all similar films there is a twist at the end, however in this film I really didn’t like it; the twist didn’t fit with the rest of the story and whilst it was “explained” I feel it was only included because the writer felt that a twist was required. I think it would have been a much better film if the twist-time was spent bulking out the back stories and improving the tension in the room.

Nine Dead is an average watch that is neither particularly gory or frightening but does entertain for the duration of the film. I would recommend it to fans of the Saw films who have run out of similar films to watch.

This is quite a short review as there isn’t really much to say about it – it is neither good nor bad and generally quite forgettable.

Rating: 3/5


Martyrs (2008)


Martyrs is essentially a film with three acts centred around two young women, Lucie and Anna, played by Mylène Jampanoï (Hereafter, The Chinese Botanist’s Daughters ) and Morjana Alaoui (Rock the Casbah, Special Forces) respectively. The film opens with a young Lucie’s  escape from an abandoned warehouse where she is being abused. Put into a children’s home, Lucie refuses to communicate with the authorities but forms a close an enduring friendship with her roommate, Anna. The film then skips forwards fifteen years where we see Lucie break into an ordinary family’s home and kill them all with a shot gun, however the pile of corpses are not Lucie’s only problem, she is plagued by an emaciated, scarred woman (think Gollum but way more scary) who attacks her repeatedly. Needing help, she calls her life-long friend Anna who rushes to her aid, cleaning her wounds and disposing of the bodies. It turns out that the family was not as ordinary as on first appearances and Lucie is sure the parents are the people who kidnapped and tortured her fifteen years previously. This is essentially the first act dealing with the ramifications of Lucie’s actions and the mysterious woman, ghost, monster or in Lucie’s psyche.

The catalyst of the second act is Anna’s discovery that the mother is still alive and the deterioration of Lucie’s behaviour and focusses more on the relationship between the two girls. Anna begins to doubt that the parents are those responsible for Lucie’s torture, after all it has been fifteen years and she only had a newspaper clipping to go on. Discovering Anna’s doubts, Lucie brutally kills the mother with a sledge hammer in graphic details, the most unnerving and effective part is the dull thuds as the hammer lands in the woman’s skull before killing herself. Anna is distraught but the next morning, thanks to large chunks taken out of the wall by Lucie’s sledge hammer, discovers an underground complex with the same chair-chains-bucket combination from Lucie’s past. What I didn’t understand was the size and professional look of this chamber, for example it went not just one but two storeys underground and featured poster-sized illuminated photos of people close to death in extreme circumstances. Surely anything of this size and quality would have cost a fortune and required a serious team of builders.

The third and final part of the film I’m not going to ruin the surprise here, but it is a cracker of an ending that I didn’t see coming. It takes the film from an average psychological thriller to the next level. Whilst at the start Martyrs reminded me strongly of another French film released at the same time, Switchblade Romance (released in the US as High Tension),writer and director Pascal Laugier (The Tall Man, House of Voices) pushes the idea to its limits, ramping the tension throughout the film. I think Martyrs is an excellent, if not necessarily enjoyable film that will stay with me for a long time.

Rating: 5/5 (although very different from the last film, The Bat, which also got full marks!)


I Spit on your Grave aka Day of the Woman (1978)

i spit on your grave

I Spit On Your Grave opens with the arrival of a young New Yorker, Jennifer played by Camille Keaton (Tragic Ceremony) and coincidently the writer and director, Meir Zarchi’s wife and Buster Keaton’s granddaughter, in a small Connecticut town. Jennifer has moved from the Big Apple in order to write her first novel but instead meets a very grizzly fate at the hands of four local men. At the start, whilst it seems like an idyllic summer retreat for Jennifer, the viewer is treated to a slightly less picturesque insight into the local community including the slow grocery delivery man Matthew (Richard Pace) and two unemployed layabouts Stanley (Anthony Nichols) and Andy (Gunter Kleemann). Indeed, our introduction to Stanley and Andy hints at their unsavoury nature with them throwing around a knife at the local gas station whilst leering at the newly arrived woman.

After a few days of relative peace, Jennifer is surprised in her canoe by Stanley and Andy in their motorboat and then follows one of the longest (25 minutes) rape scenes in cinematic history in which the two men along with Matthew and Johnny (Eron Tabor), the gas station attendant.  Understandably this is an incredibly harrowing and upsetting to watch scene which culminates in her being left for dead, only alive on the mercy of Matthew who could not stomach killing her. The reason that the rape scene is so long is that there are periods where it seems like Jennifer is safe, having escaped her tormentors only to be caught and repeatedly violated. Life continues as normal for the four men with them complaining that ‘life is too boring now,’ until Jennifer, now unhinged after the attack stalks them and exacts her revenge in an equally graphic and brutal manner.

Unlike many films (think Psycho with its stabbing violins) there is a distinct lack of soundtrack lending a gritty and realistic quality to the film, making Keaton’s heart-wrenching screams more traumatic. Whilst some of the dialogue is stilted and Jennifer’s novel writing (she would use a lot of paper the way she writes!) is both unbelievable and a poor novel, the acting itself is (generally) good, especially considering the horrific nature of the film.

As with Cannibal Holocaust, this film is not one to watch lightly, however unlike Cannibal Holocaust, there seems to be very little plot and little reason for the traumatic violence beyond shocking the audience, although director Meir Zarchi’s preferred title, Day of the Woman, hints at women’s rights and struggles, I fail to see much evidence of this in the film. I Spit on your Grave has previously been named as one of the worst films ever made, although despite this a remake was produced in 2010, however after watching the original I am not keen to see the later version, nor could I recommend watching this film, except maybe as an earlier example of the ‘torture-porn’ or ‘gorno’ genre.

Fun Fact: All the actors performed their own stunts as the production couldn’t afford any stuntpeople.