Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

When a deal goes wrong, a terrorist organization get their hands on three cases of weapons-grade plutonium, putting the entire world at risk. So to stop the technology from falling into the wrong hands, Ethan Hunt and the rest of IMF go undercover to find the plutonium, save the world, and, of course, run, ride motorcycles, and hang from things.

Mission Impossible: Fallout is not a film I was planning on seeing. I’d never actually watched any films in the franchise before, so I didn’t think it made sense to jump in on the sixth movie. Plus, I’ve been getting real tired of blockbuster sequels recently. It’s why I haven’t reviewed Infinity War, Ant-Man & The Wasp, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Ocean’s 8, or any of the other big movies that are in theaters right now. I want to see something original for a change. And before you accuse me of being a cinephile snob, I don’t mean “original” in the sense of impenetrable, art house fare. I mean, genre films that aren’t adapted from things, or part of some preexisting franchise. Back in the 80s and 90s, you could make original, mid-budget action movies, like Point Break, Speed or Predator, that were just that; original. Now, everything’s got to be part of some ongoing series, a remake of something that was big a few years ago, or adapted from a comic, TV show, or book. But, I’m getting side-tracked. The point I’m trying to make is, I wasn’t planning on watching the film, but my roommate bought two tickets, and I’ll always accept an offer to go to the movies. So I watched it, and it was fun. That’s literally all I can say about it. It’s a fast-paced, competently-crafted action movie with big car chases, explosions, and 56-year-old Tom Cruise running, jumping, and hanging off of things, be they buildings, helicopters, or cliff-sides. If you’re a fan of the series, of Tom Cruise, or just like watching action set-pieces that look like they were dreamt up by a 12-year-old boy mid sugar rush, which I, for one, do, give this flick a look. No matter what I say, it’ll do well. So, keeping that in mind, here are some problems I had with the flick.

The plot is extremely convoluted. Actually, let me re-phrase that. The overall plot, meaning Tom Cruise and his team trying to get the plutonium back, is very simple. But the minutia of the plot, meaning individual scenes and side-quests, gets very muddled. They’ve got to spring this guy out of prison, then evade the CIA, then stop a big bomb from going off, because it’ll melt a glacier and this will lead to global famine, etc. And all the while this is happening, there’s about five or six double-crosses, last-minute reveals, and people trying to convince other people that they can’t be trusted, and so on. Yes, I’m aware that putting on disguises and fooling people is a staple of the franchise, but it honestly got to the point where it happened so often that, whenever a new reveal occurred, I started laughing. On top of this, the villains are all pretty generic. The main  one, John Lark, is just a run-of-the-mill evil guy who wants to blow up the world, and you can very easily predict what his true identity is. And as for the other two villains, an arms dealer called The White Widow, and a CIA person played by Angela Bassett, they really don’t serve much purpose beyond padding out the runtime by sending Cruise on little side-quests. As soon as they’re not needed, the film drops them without much ceremony, which leads me to wonder why they were included in the first place. But my biggest complaint with the film is that the whole thing feels run-of-the-mill. Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote and directed the picture, as well as the last Mission Impossible movie, doesn’t have much personality as a filmmaker. He shoots everything in a very standard, wide-lens format, which is good, in the sense that you can see what’s happening very clearly. But nothing about the film stands out, artistically. He doesn’t use color, music, or camera angles uniquely. There’s no imaginative set design, or noticeable editing choices to make this feel like anything other than a sleek, but standard, action movie. Say what you like about John Woo, who directed the second film, at least his movie felt different. I may not have been in love with Baby Driver, since I thought it’s story was bland, but Edgar Wright’s bright color palette, quirky camerawork, and heavy use of music made the film feel like its own thing. Fallout is crafted with skill, but it feels like it could have been made by anyone. And for a franchise that prides itself on having new, different voices put their quirks on display in each movie, that’s kind of disappointing.

LIke I said, though, the movie is fun. And no matter what I say, it’ll do well. So it’s maybe not even worth me writing about it at all. Ah well.

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The Descent (2005)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

One year after her husband and daughter are killed, extreme sports enthusiast Sarah reunites with some old friends for a weekend of spelunking in the Appalachians. When they get down into the cave, however, the tunnel collapses behind them, and, to make matters worse, the woman who suggested these caves, Juno, admits that she lied about where they were. They’re in an uncharted system, and no one knows where to find them. And as if being trapped underground with limited water, light and oxygen weren’t bad enough, it turns out that the women aren’t alone in these caves. There’s something else with them. Something… hungry.

The Descent is a primary example of the old saying, “it’s not the idea that counts, it’s how you tell it.” On paper, there’s nothing special about this movie. A group of people are trapped in a confined space, and there’s something supernatural coming after them. We’ve seen that premise done a thousand times before. But we haven’t seen it be done in caves, and with only women. Throw in some top-notch direction, and some nail-biting, pants-pissing tension, and you’ve got yourself a sleeper hit on your hands. I’m not lying when I say that, as soon as the characters enter the caves, the movie gets a hundred times better. You feel so claustrophobic while they’re down there that it’s not even funny. There’s one sequence in particular, where the characters have to get across this big gap, and are hanging from the ceiling, that had me holding my breath, it was that intense. As someone who’s gone spelunking, and swore to himself afterwards that he would never do so again, this film captures the feeling of being hundreds of feet underground, and unable to move, exceptionally well. If you want to watch an intense, visceral horror movie that has you on the edge of your seat, from the fifteen minute mark, basically to the end, give this flick a look.

That said, The Descent isn’t perfect. A large part of this has to do with the script. The characters just aren’t very interesting, or well-written. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the only way I was able to distinguish them from each other was their accents. And the writer/director, Neil Marshall, knows this. He’s stated in interviews that the reason he got such an international cast together–there are women in here from England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia and the Netherlands–was so that the audience would be able to tell them apart. In that respect, he succeeded, but the characters these women are playing really aren’t that well-defined. They’re all tough, sporty and take no shit. Which is refreshing in a horror film, since none of them are helpless victims, but not great if you’re trying to get to know them as people. We don’t know enough about these women to distinguish them from one another beyond their most superficial feature; their accents. We don’t know if they have jobs, if they’re married, have kids, significant others, or are into certain styles of music or cinema. As such, it becomes harder to care about them when they die. On top of this, some of the acting is a little bit shaky. The woman who plays Juno, Australian actress Natalie Mendoza, really can’t hold an American accent. There are points where she’s talking that she just goes full-blown Aussie, and it gets very distracting. In short, The Descent suffers from many of the flaws that other horror films have; poor acting and a weak script. But I’m not lying when I say that the film’s direction, it’s production design and all-around craftsmanship make up for that. It’s intense, engaging, and very well-made. If you’re a horror fan, don’t hesitate to give it a look.

Damsel (2018)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Parson Henry isn’t a real preacher. He isn’t even a man of God. He’s just a sad widower, looking for a fresh start, who was given a preacher’s clothes while journeying out West. How unfortunate for Henry when young Samuel, thinking that he is a real parson, recruits him to go out into the wild and wed him and his fiancé, Penelope, whom he claims was kidnapped. Henry is reluctant, but, seeing as he’s got nowhere else to go, and Samuel has offered to pay, agrees. When they reach Penelope’s cabin, however, and shoot her supposed kidnapper, Henry realizes that not all is as it seems to be, and things spiral out of control from there, with the line between good and evil, sanity and insanity, getting blurred.

Damsel is not a film I was planning on seeing. At least, I wasn’t at first. I went to the theater to watch Hearts Beat Loud, the new Nick Offerman movie, found out it wasn’t playing, and decided to give this a try. And I am so happy I did, because this is an original, subversive, darkly-comedic gem that I’m praying more people will go see. What is it, exactly? Well, that’s actually kind of hard to say. Is it a comedy? Is it a Western? Is it a thriller? Is it all of them at once? You spend the first 30 minutes or so being led to believe that this is going to be a sweet, old-fashioned Western with a comedic twist, but then, out of nowhere, things get super dark, and super violent. And the best part is, it feels earned. The transition doesn’t feel abrupt, or out of place. See, there are some films, Audition, Psycho, that switch their genre about halfway through, and it feels appropriate. Part of that has to do with how they set up tone. In Damsel, the filmmakers do a great job of making the world around Henry seem strange and menacing, so that when we find out that Samuel lied about Penelope getting kidnapped, it feels in keeping with what we’ve seen so far. Something else that I love about this movie is the fact that it truly is subversive with regards to how it presents the Western. See, many, many films have tried to approach the Western from a deconstructive or revisionist stance, but ultimately wind up becoming the very thing they were trying to satirize. Unforgiven is perhaps the best example of this phenomenon. It spends the first two-thirds telling you that the heroic Western is a myth, that gunslingers were selfish, violent, disgusting men without conscience or honor. And yet, it ends with the main character avenging his friends death, and freeing a town from the clutches of a ruthless, tyrannical sheriff. It basically becomes the very thing it spend the first half of the story telling you didn’t exist. Damsel doesn’t do that. It starts off by giving you a Western you’d expect, a heroic man and his bumbling sidekick going to save a woman, but then pulls the rug out from under you by having it get revealed that the “hero” in question is a delusional stalker who murdered a man for no reason. And far from being a damsel in distress, Penelope is easily the most active, most competent and most aggressive character in this movie. I’m actually kind of sad that she wasn’t the main character the whole way through, but,  you can’t always get what you want.

Now, if I have any complaints at all, it’s the fact that the movie is very slow. It spends a long time setting up the world, and showing Henry and Samuel journeying through the wilderness together. I understand why those scenes were there, to give us a false sense of security and familiarity, so that, when the reveal happens later on, it’s more shocking, but I can definitely see some people being bored by them. On top of this, the film’s humor is very eccentric. A lot of it derives from the characters meeting people, or seeing things, that are just super weird, like a fat man, dressed in a barrel, who never stops laughing. I found it endearing, but, again, I can see people being put off by it. Still, none of those things take away from the fact that this movie is original, funny, subversive, and very well-acted. It’s an eccentric gem that stands out in the midst of all the franchise mayhem we get this time of year, and I think you’d all like it if you gave it a chance.

First Reformed (2018)

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Ethan Hawke is the pastor of a small, upstate New York Church. He’s a veteran, a recovering alcoholic, and a man slowly dying of cancer. One day, he is asked by one of his parishioners, Amanda Seyfried, to counsel her husband, a radical environmental activist. The man is depressed, and she believes talking to a pastor would be good for him. Hawke agrees to do so, but finds himself unable to console the man, who believes that humanity’s damage to the Earth is irreversible, and that it’s not worth bringing life into an existence this shitty. Things only get worse when the man kills himself, and Hawke finds a suicide bomber’s vest in the former’s garage. Hawke slowly unravels from there, becoming radicalized into the dead man’s cause, and even planning to blow himself up and kill every member of his congregation in the process. Will he do so? Well, you’ll just have to watch the movie to find out.

First Reformed is a film I hadn’t heard of until my roommate mentioned it to me. Then, when I learned that it was written and directed by Paul Schrader, the writer of such classics as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, I knew I had to go see it. And, having seen it, I can tell you that this is a beautifully-acted, meticulously crafted, haunting, unnerving movie. Now, let me be clear, It’s not the kind of film that you watch to enjoy and feel good about yourself. It’s the kind of film that’s designed to provoke you, to make you uneasy. Which is no surprise, given that many of Schrader’s other movies, Taxi Driver, Last Temptation Of Christ, Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters, were controversial at the time of their releases. And if you’re a person who doesn’t like the idea of watching a man of God suffer, act violently, and mentally and physically deteriorate, I can totally see why you’d hate this movie. As for me, I found the whole thing strangely hypnotic. It’s a very quiet movie–literally, there’s no score for most of the film–and there are several scenes of Hawke just living his life, and talking to the various members of his congregation. All of this makes both him, and the other characters in the movie, feel more real, and makes you empathize with him, even after he starts to deteriorate. The camerawork is also very interesting. Movement is used very effectively to emphasize both shifts in character, and key plot points. In the first half of the movie, shots are static, wide, and scenes play out in single, unbroken takes. As Hawke unravels, however, the camera begins to move, and not in the sense that it starts shaking, but in the sense that it’ll glide away from him, as if to mirror his sanity slowly leaving his body. All of this, coupled with truly excellent performances from Hawke, and all the supporting cast, definitely make First Reformed worth watching, regardless of its provocative subject matter.

Now, if I have any critiques of the film, apart from the fact that it will no doubt offend many people, it’s that it very much feels like a Paul Schrader joint. Almost all his films, Taxi Driver, American Gigolo, Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters, tell the stories of people falling from grace. In many cases, the characters will plan to murder others, as part of some grand political statement, only to chicken out at the last minute, and turn the gun (Taxi Driver) or knife (Mishima) on themselves. This film follows that formula to a T, with it even lifting shots from Schrader’s other movies. At one point , Hawke looks down into his glass as the liquid inside sloshes about (if you’ve seen Taxi Driver, you know what I’m getting at). Now, to be fair, there’s nothing wrong with a writer having certain quirks and recurring themes–mine include having the main character be Asian, and telling a story set in the past–but it does get to be a problem when the writer in question just recycles those quirks without trying to do anything new. And, the thing is, for the first half of the movie, it did feel like Schrader was trying to do something new. He was making a quiet drama about a pastor helping others, a refreshing change of pace from the dark and gritty crime-dramas he’s known for. But then, the second half rolls around, and I realized, “oh no. Schrader’s just doing what he always does.” And, because of that, I almost feel like some of the things that the film has to say about God, and the Environment, and the commercialization of spirituality, don’t really resonate anymore, because this is just another story about a crazy person who wants to kill people. And the thing is, the movie even knows this. When Hawke finds the suicide vest in the dead man’s garage, he tells Amanda Seyfried to not let anyone know about this, because, to use his own words, “His cause was just. Best not to sully it with disrepute.” It was like Schrader was trying to remind himself that if he went ahead and told the kind of stories he usually does, all the points he’s making would be rendered moot. Alas, he went ahead and told that story anyway.

But, if I’m being honest with myself, I still think this is a good movie. It’s very well-acted, and very well-crafted with regards to it’s cinematography and sound design. For that reason, I would recommend you all go see it. If it’s in your area, give it a look.

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, has a problem. His girlfriend is dead, and, thanks to his healing factor, he can’t join her in heaven. Not until his heart is in the right place. But what does that mean? Well, Wade interprets that as a call to protect a young mutant boy, Russell, from the time-traveler Cable, who has journeyed back from the future to assassinate him. And if that sounds like the plot to a Terminator movie, never fear. Deadpool most certainly comments on that fact. So now, the race is on to assemble a new super team, X-Force, and save Russell before it’s too late. Will they do both in time? Well, you’ll just have to watch to find out.

Deadpool 2 is a movie I watched purely on a whim. I wasn’t a huge fan of the original. I mean, I liked it well enough, and I could certainly understand why people appreciated it, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea. A little too much profanity, and childish humor, for my taste. Still, the reviews for this film came in, they were good, and I decided to sit down in a movie theater and give Deadpool 2 a try. And, having done so, I found myself walking out rather satisfied.

This movie is more or less exactly what the original was–lots of violence, profanity, and meta-textual humor–but with a bigger budget. A lot more explosions and car chases this time around. Like the last one, there are some jokes that really hit, and some jokes that don’t. Also like the last one, the acting, particularly from Ryan Reynolds, is quite good, though Reynolds does chew the scenery a bit too much for my taste. There’s one moment in particular, which parodies overlong, dramatic death scenes, that I found a bit grating. But, to be fair, that’s entirely a matter of personal taste. As I mentioned in my Death Of Stalin review, comedy is one of the few genres that is truly subjective. If you aren’t into a particular type of humor, you won’t like certain movies. So, for that reason, I can’t really knock Deadpool 2 down for not having jokes that I liked. What I can comment on is the filmmaking, which, for the most part, is solid. As I said, the acting is good, the action is well-staged, with everything being shot in clear, long takes, and the film moves at a brisk enough pace that you’re never bored. I also liked the introduction of new characters into the universe, particularly Domino, who has the power to be lucky, and Yukio, who is Negasonic Teenage Warhead’s girlfriend. That last fact is actually a pretty big deal, because Yukio and Negasonic are now officially the first openly queer couple in a mainstream blockbuster. That’s huge. I also really like the woman who plays Yukio, Australian actress Shiori Kutsuna, who, fun fact, was in a movie that one of my professors, Shinho Lee, wrote. It’s called While The Women Are Sleeping, and I think you all should check it, and her other work, particularly the Japanese remake of Unforgiven, out. Unfortunately, neither she nor Negasonic are really in the movie for that long. And even though it’s great to see an openly queer Asian woman in a mainstream blockbuster, she’s kind of a Japanese stereotype. She giggles, waves, and the only thing she really gets to say is “Hi Wade” and “bye Wade” throughout the movie. I just hope that in the next film, she gets a little more to do. But my biggest gripe, by far, is the fact that, as impressive as the action is, it’s all so big and frenetic that it gets exhausting after a while. It kind of reminds me of The Last Jedi. If you read my review for that film, you’d know that I liked the movie, but I found all the action in it so big and bombastic that no single beat felt more important or impactful than another. The same principle holds true with Deadpool 2. Virtually every action scene involves an explosion, ten cars flipping over each other, and at least 100 people getting killed. And those are supposed to be the smaller, warm-up beats leading to the big climax.

In the end, though, I do think Deadpool 2‘s strengths outweigh its weaknesses. It’s got good acting, well-filmed action and a brisk pace. Maybe some of the humor doesn’t land, and maybe it could have given Yukio and Negasonic more to do, but those are both matters of personal taste. I do think it’s fun, and definitely worth a watch.

Ghost Stories (2018)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Phillip Goodman has spent his life investigating the paranormal; all in the hopes of proving that there is nothing to this world beyond what we can see, hear and feel. But, one day, he is contacted by a mentor, and fellow skeptic, Dr. Cameron, who claims that he has come across three cases that cannot be explained through science, and is starting to doubt his life’s work. He begs Goodman to prove him wrong, to find evidence that the cases are all hoaxes, and Goodman agrees, setting out to investigate the three alleged incidents. These include a Night Watchman who was haunted by a girl in an abandoned asylum, a teenager who was attacked by a monster out in the woods, and a financier who was visited by both a poltergeist and the ghost of his dead wife. Goodman is confident that all three cases can be explained through science. As the investigation progresses, however, he becomes less and less sure of this, and more and more skeptical of his own sanity.

Guys, when it comes to movies, I’m a jaded person. I’ve seen, read, and listened to so much about cinema that, most of the time, when I go in to see a movie, I know exactly how it’s going to pan out. Nowhere is this more true than with horror films. The tropes, tricks and trademarks are so well-documented, and have been so thoroughly satirized, that its really hard for me to get scared by them anymore. Even with good horror movies, like Get Out and It Follows, I find myself more engaged by these films than frightened by them. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t scare easily, and when a film comes around that really and truly chills me, it’s special. It’s amazing.  And this film, Ghost Stories, is both of those things. This is the first film I’ve seen, in a very long time, that really and truly frightened me. Everything about it, from the moody cinematography, to the use of music and sound effects, is unnerving. Watching this movie reminded me of those nights when I was a kid, alone in my parent’s house, and even the slightest peep would terrify me. The Asylum sequence, especially, gave me the willies. If you love horror movies, if you’re jaded, and want to watch something truly unsettling, give this flick a look. It is absolutely worth your time.

Now, that said, this movie is still a movie, and therefore suffers from flaws, as all movies do. The biggest one, easily, is the ending. I won’t spoil it, but, I’m not exaggerating when I say that it almost ruined the whole experience for me. It’s barely built up to, completely changes the tone of the rest of the film, and more or less betrays what the picture has been saying so far; that there are some things in life that can’t be explained. And unlike most films that start off well, but have bad conclusions, you can’t just say, “well, the ending sucked, but I can just enjoy the first half by itself,” because this ending completely changes that first half. Still, the acting, cinematography, editing and genuinely frightening tone of this film definitely make it worth a watch. Just go in expecting a stupid ending.

Audition (1999)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Aoyama is a middle-aged widower who has spent the past 7 years in mourning. One day, his son, Shigehiko, tells him that he looks old, and should start dating again. Distraught, Aoyama goes to his friend, Yoshikawa, for advice, and Yoshikawa, believing that the current dating scene is too complex for Aoyama to navigate, devises a scheme to get his pal laid. This involves Yoshikawa, who is a film producer, setting up a phony audition wherein young women will come in and try out for the “part” of Aoyama’s wife. They won’t know what’s going on, and Aoyama can pick whichever one meets all of his criteria. In so doing, Aoyama comes across Asami, a shy, but well-spoken former ballerina whose apparent emotional depth is fascinating to him. As he grows closer to her, however, he starts to uncover some disturbing facts about her past, and realizes that maybe she’s not who she says she is.

Audition is a very important movie to me. Not only is it my favorite horror film of all time, but it’s also the first screenplay I ever wrote. Seriously. When I was fifteen, I spent a summer penning an English language adaptation of the story, in the hopes of learning how to write screenplays. With hindsight, this probably wasn’t the best film to use as a learning tool, seeing as how it has an extremely unusual structure, but still. It was instrumental in my development as a filmmaker. And I’m not the only one. Despite being made for a minuscule budget, and not even having a wide theatrical release when it came out back in 1999, Audition has acquired a huge following over the years, and has influenced several mainstream horror directors, including James Wan, Eli Roth, and the Soskia Sisters. Quentin Tarantino even listed it as one of the 20 best films that came out since he started making movies. And when you watch it, you can understand why. This is a hauntingly beautiful film. The camerawork, the use of color and music, and the acting are superb. And like the best horror films, it’s not just focused on getting the audience to jump. As a matter of fact, part of what makes Audition so unique is how, for the first half; it’s not a horror movie at all. There are no jump scares. There’s no creepy music. Nothing about it leaves you feeling spooked or uneasy. The whole thing comes off as a quiet, slow, even somewhat cheesy romance. Which is why many people have pushed the theory that the latter half of the film, where things get considerably darker and more horrific, is actually an elaborate dream sequence; a manifestation of Aoyama’s guilt over having deceived Asami. This theory is supported by the fact that the midpoint of the film, the moment where it moves from romance to horror, involves Aoyama and Asami falling asleep in each other’s arms. Now it’s worth mentioning that the film’s director, Takashi Miike, has denied this theory, stating that everything that happens in the second half is real, but that doesn’t matter. Art, by virtue of being art, can be interpreted in multiple ways, besides the author’s original intention, and, even if what Miike says is true, that doesn’t change the fact that this is a truly haunting horror film. It sticks with you, long after you’ve finished watching it. It gets you to think, and question your own views, not just of gender, but reality itself. And for that, I’ve got to give it props.

Now, as important as Audition is to me, I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with it. A large part of this has to do with the fact that no one can agree on whether or not it can be described as feminist. On the one hand, people have argued that it shows a sexist man, Aoyama, getting punished for his sins by a woman. On the other hand, people have pointed out how the woman dishing out the punishment, Asami, is a creepy, psychotic murderer, and not at all someone for girls to look up to. It’s also worth mentioning that the novel this was based off of, which I have read, is unambiguously misogynistic, and is much more interested in exploring the gaps between generations than addressing systemic sexism. And, as I’ve said before on this blog, many of Takashi Miike’s other films have been criticized for their inclusion of rape, and other forms of violence against women. So when you take all that into consideration, it’s hard to see this as any kind of women power manifesto. And yet, I can’t unequivocally call it sexist, because there are a ton of good messages about gender, and the way we view relationships, in this film. As a matter of fact, I actually think this movie has gotten better, and considerably more relevant, over the years. Not only do it’s explorations of men in positions of power using that power to sexually exploit women feel extremely poignant in the era of #MeToo, but the whole conceit of this film, the audition, speaks to our modern culture of online dating. Aoyama uses the fake casting call to pick someone who meets all his criteria for what a perfect spouse is. But, the truth is, we do that whenever we go onto OkCUpid, or Tinder, or any other dating app, and insert our preferred age range, body type, or ethnicity into the search bar. All of us try to find the perfect partner, and use whatever means are available, to shrink the dating pool. And, very often, we are shallow, and are cruel, when we do that. And the worst part is, we aren’t necessarily trying to be. Most people, if you ask them, will tell you that sexism is bad. But that doesn’t change the fact that many men, and even some women, exhibit sexist behavior when viewing potential partners. The film captures this quite well. Aoyama, at his heart, is not a bad man. He’s a good father, and was always faithful to his wife. He’s just lonely, and has a very specific idea of what his ideal partner is. Is that idea unrealistic, and degrading to most women? Sure. And if you buy into the dream theory, which I, personally, do, then he knows this. All the horrific, and bizarre visions he has are manifestations of his guilt over having lied to a woman that wants nothing but to please him. And as creepy as Asami is in the latter half, none of what she does is her fault. She is a byproduct of a sexist, misogynistic society that has constantly belittled, abused, and told her that she needs to be better; she needs to be a man’s idea of perfection. Of course she snapped. Any sane person would. And yet, society continues to tell women to strive for perfection, and tells men that they are entitled to it, and, the truth is, it’s poisonous. And the film knows that. Everything about the first half, the slow pace, the cheesy romantic music, the fact that their whole relationship is built on lies, is there to show us how artificial, and unrealistic such expectations are. So when that second half hits, we fully understand how toxic, how truly harmful these expectations men have for women, are.

Guys, what can I say? Audition isn’t just a great horror film. It’s a great film. Not only is it well acted and superbly shot, but it really gets under your skin, and forces you to confront the worst aspects of yourself, like the best movies do.