This, by itself, is not news: another Japanese horror film is getting an English-language remake. Add in one crucial detail, however, and watch the newsiness bubble to life before your very eyes: the 1999 Japanese horror film Audition is getting an English-language remake.
Unaware of what Audition is? It’s a simple story. A lonely man has spent too long doing the single dad thing and realizes that he needs a little love in his life to be truly complete. So he, his son and a buddy from the movie industry put together a mock audition where young women come to try out for “a role.” Unwittingly, they’re really auditioning to be the object of Mr. Lonely Dad’s affection. They end up with the perfect candidate for a girlfriend, but — surprise! — she’s nuts. Cue the kind of sick, godless horror depravity that disgusts people yet also makes them desperate to watch Audition.
According to Deadline, producer Mario Kassar (The Terminator, Rambo, Basic Instinct) and Australian filmmaker Richard Gray (Mine Games) will be taking on the monumental task of turning the gross stuff Japanese audiences love into the gross stuff American audiences love. Gray will be sticking very closely to the original (and the 1997 novel it’s based on). Japanese names will be Americanized for our convenience — doting dad Shigeharu Aoyama is now Sam Davis, love interest/torturess Asami Yamazaki is now Evie Lawrence — but basically everything else will be the same. And in the case of Audition, “everything else” includes “hypodermic needles jammed into eyeballs” and “a disfigured man who eats someone else’s puke from a dog dish.”
Yep, it’s that kind of movie.
Audition is a special kind of icky, the kind that cemented director Takashi Miike into horror movie history and put a special kind of fear into the hearts of men going on a first date. At any moment, a romantic taco dinner could turn into you limblessly being stuck in a big sack for the rest of your life. But a remake that goes for that exact same brand of ick would probably be more redundant-gross than nouveau-gross.
Think of Oldboy, a cult Asian film most famous for its Rube Goldberg plot device that starts with take-out dumplings and ends with father-daughter incest. Spike Lee couldn’t just steal the manual and build the same thing for his own remake. So he tweaked the motives a little bit, but in the end his version was still too similar and too dull. The audience he was courting — those who wanted to see a new version of Oldboy — were tired of the same old tortuous incest love triangles. They wanted freshest, hippest “I’m uncomfortable watching this” feelings.
It’s the same thing for Audition. This is a movie too far on the end of the spectrum to court a mass audience, and the niche it would appeal to already knows the ins and outs of needle-puke dog dish torture. An English-language Audition needs some audacious new hell to make Anglophones nauseous and (according to legend), spit “You’re evil!” in the director’s face before storming out of the theater. That old dog dish just won’t cut it anymore.
The Japanese have Audition. The Dutch have Human Centipede. Where’s the horror movie that will up our standing with the cult horror community while simultaneously causing it to plummet with the rest of the world?