Welcome back to “Notes from the Last Drive-In,” Haunted MTL’s review and recap series for The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, a Shudder exclusive. This week, the second episode of season three, Joe Bob sits us down for an Audition, and inducts us into the Class of 1984. How do these movies connect? Who knows? We’ll probably figure out something by the end of our journey together. What a long, strange trip it promises to be.
Opening: Dudes, don’t be creepy when trying to meet ladies, Meet Cutes are only in the movies.
Takashi Miike’s Audition, adapted from Ryu Murakami’s 1997 novel, is one of the leading films in what was the 2000s’ wave of J-horror, and stands out, 22-years later, as a horror masterpiece. However, with the film being subtitled, it feels like the movie never quite gets its due for more casual horror viewers. Thankfully, a year after Parasite took home an Oscar for best picture, perhaps a more casual audience’s hearts and minds are more open to world cinema horror. Audition stars Ryo Ishibashi, Jun Kunimura, and Eihi Shiina in a stunning international debut. The film follows a lonely widower, Aoyama, who is convinced to stage a series of phony auditions to find a potential new partner. However, as he sets his sights on a sad, strange woman named Asami, he spirals into obsession and madness… and not necessarily his own.
The film is a stunning exploration of obsessions and gender and cultural norms in Japan that I am not nearly remotely qualified enough to unpack. The film is complex and with every watch I have ever had, my opinions on the two leads change and morph. The film is so subject to interpretation that theories upon theories can be found online making various cases and arguments for just what it all means. Ultimately, the film becomes a personal experience, colored by one’s own history and perceptions. is Aoyama a victim? Yes and no. Did he really experience what he experienced after sleeping with Asami? Who knows? Definitive answers are impossible, and anyone trying to sell you one is just as lost as anyone else.
The film is stunning in a number of areas, particularly in the areas of sight and sound. The film subverts romantic comedy cinematography and uses the camera in several interesting ways to develop an unsettled and uncanny world. What we see through the camera is unreliable, just as the experiences of Aoyama depicted. As his obsession grows more skewed, so too does the reality of the screen heighten. As for the sound, the score is effective, especially as it shifts between romantic themes and the unsettling, but the best work comes in the third act, where every gross, violent image is accompanied with some of the best Foley work I have ever heard. The effect is terrifying.
The performances of the two leads are magnificent, particularly Eihi Shinna as the mysterious Asami, who radiates an unsteady aura. This is helped by the cinematography but even on set, something about her still rattled Takashi Miike. During one of the segments Joe Bob point out that Miike avoided her between takes. Ryo Ishibashi is also fantastic, playing a handsome, vulnerable man who is initially sympathetic until the mask slips with each gradual and sinister allowance. As Joe Bob points out during one of the host segments, the camera focuses on Aoyama most times; Asami’s agency is supplanted by Aoyama’s gaze, a hint at the darker side of the courtship.
The segments surrounding the episode were informative, as expected from The Last Drive-In. Particularly of note were two moments. Before the movie Joe Bob discusses how we classify horror movies. Echoing Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart from Jacobellis v. Ohio in 1964, an important case on what qualifies as obscene or not, Joe Bob says of horror that “we know it when we see it.” Horror, much like pornography and all good things, is something that can be hard to pin down with words, but is in a state in and of itself. The second segment of note in the first half of the night was an extended gag poking fun at Joe Bob’s inability to pronounce Japanese words, with Joe Bob holding up a series of flashcards and Yuki read the names.
Joe Bob Briggs’ critical of assessment is spot on, giving the film the full four-stars. I am much inclined to agree with the perceived perfection of the film. While few films are perfect to me as I would argue that perfection is something that can be achieved, some get pretty close – Audition is one of those ‘perfect’ horror films and gets a full five-Cthulhu rating.(5 / 5)
Best Line: “Deeper, deeper, deeper, deeper.” – Asami as she shows how much she really cares for Aoyama.
Class of 1984 (1982)
Opening: Corporal Punishment in Teaching (the holes make the paddle faster)
The second half of the night revolved around the 1982 high school crime thriller Class of 1984, directed by Mark Lester. The film is a satirical projection of anxieties regarding violence and crime in schools in the 1980s and would spawn two sci-fi sequels, Class of 1999 and Class of 1999 II: The Substitute. Class of 1984 stars Perry King, Merrie Lynn Ross, Roddy McDowall, and Timothy Van Patten. It also has one of the earliest film appearances of Michael J. Fox with an most unfortunate haircut. The film follows a music teacher, Andrew Norris, who is new to a troubled inner city school that is under the control of a group of “punks” who commit an extremely wide array of crimes. Eventually, Norris finds himself pushed to the extreme and must take action into his own hands to deal with these terror-teens… as violently as possible.
Most films on The Last Drive-In are just good fun for me. I love horror, but despite that, few horror films actually scare me – I walk through haunts laughing. I’ve grown up with the genre, watching violence and terror since I was a toddler. It probably did something to my brain. That being said, no film on The Last Drive-In has affected me quite like Class of 1984. For many, it is not really a horror movie, though, again, I defer to Joe Bob with “we know them when we see them.” The raw, visceral quality of the film, and the inhumanity on display by Tim Van Patten’s Peter Stegman and his merry band of ghouls is profoundly disturbing. I also work as a teacher, so the metaphor of systemic problems in education and the punishment of teachers who try their best to just fucking teach hits hard. Horror is all metaphor; the knife is a phallus, the zombie is a consumer, the chainsaw represents industrialized society – and the inhuman gang of teens of Class of 1984 are among these metaphors. I wouldn’t say that 1984 scared me, though but rather it woke something dark.
The film itself is competent, fun shlock with a lot of missed opportunities. But the key, here, is fun. The set piece in the final act is worth the watch alone. Performances are not subtle, but that’s fine because Roddy McDowall gnashes his way through his scenes, the best of the film, like the legend he was. Tim Van Patten is a cartoonish sociopath, but for a movie like this, it works. Perry King is serviceable, given the thankless role of being the vehicle of vengeance with little realistic development and forced to make dumb choices to move the plot along. His grimace has he murders teens, however? Fantastic.
The movie’s cinematography is pretty unimpressive. It’s competent and gets the job done, but it doesn’t “wow.” The music is better, featuring some solid punk music and a fun theme “I Am the Future” by Alice Cooper. But as a whole, the movie feels like a straight to video project, but lacks a low-budget surge of creativity. It is polished to the point of blandness – its saving grace is the story, some shocking excess, an iconic performance by McDowall, and its connection to Canadian horror.
Joe Bob’s treatment of the movie, I felt, was a little overly effusive. But again, our experience are our own – I do not always agree with his assessments. Three segments during the night were particularly fascinating. One extended segment featured the return of visual aids to a Joe Bob rant, where our venerable host covered the Van Patten family tree to an absurd degree. Absolutely hilarious. Another moment, earlier was a digression on the usage of “punk” in the film. As a fan of punk rock, and someone who is both in love and critical of the scene and its history, it is always a joy to listen to Joe Bob drop some knowledge of the scene. This time around, his focus was on the way punk is portrayed in the movie, and I particularly appreciate his pointing out a distinction between punk and new wave aesthetics. I’d be curious to learn more about his punk music knowledge, personally. The third segment I highlighted, was post-film, where Joe Bob expresses his concerns over how the ending was handled. he was appropriately critical, not disparaging the film, but I think being more honest about it. I would love to have picked his brain there, given his extended criticism, and asked him what his assessment of the film would have been then.
Joe Bob Briggs gave Class of 1984 the third four-star rating of the season. I worry he was a bit too generous. It is a fun movie – and it even got a particularly reaction from me – but it shouldn’t be rated on equal footing with Audition. As for me, the film earns a standard three Cthulhus. it is worth a watch, but temper your expectations.(3 / 5)
Best Line: “I am the future!” -Peter Stegman, teen of terror
Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals
Our official totals this week, as always, come from the Shudder Twitter account.
As for our totals?
- 3 instance of Four-Star Feature this season
- 2 Instances of “Thee-ate-er”
- 2 instances of Darcy being Twitter Jailed
- 2 Yuki Sightings
- 100+ films by Takashi Miike
- Casting Couch Vibes
- Dead Mom/Wife
- Gratuitous Various Severed Parts
- Acupuncture Fu
- Japanese Pink Film Referencing
- Gratuitous Animal Murder
- Brainfuck Dream Sequence
- Second Polaroid Rape Sequence this season
- Cheese Joking
- Horse Joking
- Silver Bolo Award: Zombie Joe’s Underground
- Darcy Cosplay Count: 2 – Asami and Patsy
The pairing of films was pretty unusual. I can usually find a way to link the choices thematically, but I admit I am struggling a bit here. If I had to hone in on something, I suppose it would be obsession, as both films feature unhealthy fixations, but it is also a little too easy. The other thought, more abstract, admittedly, is the idea of transitions – moving between states. An audition is a way to force a change from one, high school is a period in which an individual is transitioning from childhood to a perceived adulthood. These transitions, however, are only as good as the intent behind them. Two films depicting two social institutions meant to transition individuals from one stage of life to another, both corrupted. There may be something in that.(4 / 5)
See you all next week for more Drive-In fun. I’ll be live Tweeting the show from Haunted MTL’s Twitter account, so be sure to give us a follow there.