It's hard to talk about this film without revealing its big "twist", a la the sudden change of direction that Hitchcock's Psycho was so famous for, but I'll try to be discreet.
For its first third, Audition plays like a dry romantic comedy, as a lonely widower (Ryo Ishibashi), goaded by his teenage son to find a new woman seven years after the death of his wife, enlists the aid of a friend to help him find the right girl. His friend, who works in the film industry, suggests that they pretend to be casting a film, and start holding phony auditions for the female lead.
Let's just say that the sweet, shy young woman whom Ishibashi chooses for his new love turns out to be absolutely, undeniably Miss Wrong. Because at this point, Audition takes a sharp left turn into horrific territory that makes Fatal Attraction look like a frothy Julia Roberts vehicle.
Whether this girl (played by model Eihi Shiina) is a psychotic murderess seeking revenge on men after a traumatic childhood, or if her acts of extreme violence and torture are merely the paranoid musings of Ishibashi's character, is never made clear, but the reality isn't the point. With a freaky director like Miike, you don't expect everything to make sense. Audition is all about emotion, even if that emotion is squeamishness. You depraved souls will get to see some seriously sick stuff going on during the film's last third, but it isn't gratuitous: there's a definite sense that Ishibashi deserves his comeuppance for the inherently sleazy, deeptive manner in which he casually seeks a new wife.
Audition isn't a great film, but it's definitely an unforgettable one, if only for its gut-wrenching brutality. It serves as another sign that Japanese cinema is amongst the most interesting in the world right now.