Double Feature: Seoul Station (2016) & Audition (1999)

Welcome to a Friday edition of Double Feature!

My initial plan at the beginning of the year was that Fridays would be for sharing my dive into Asian cinema (more particularly Hong Kong films) but hey, I’m a fan of all kinds of movies so as I ease back into the Asian cinema world, I’m heading into another Shudder double feature with Audition (1999) recommended to me by my fantastic co-host Elwood and the prequel of one of my favorite zombie movies, Seoul Station. Japanese and Korean double feature. This one is all kinds of different tags for why it works as a double feature already.

I’ve heard good stuff for both of these movies so I’m excited to check them out!

Seoul Station (2016)

seoul station

Director (and writer): Sang-ho Yeon

Voice Cast: Ryu Seung-ryong, Shim Eun-kyung, Lee Joon

Several groups of people try to survive a zombie pandemic that unleashes itself in downtown Seoul. – IMDB

With the massive success of Train to Busan (review), its hard to pass up the prequel that started the story. Seoul Station takes us back to where it all started pretty much. Although, who did bite the poor homeless man? We never will know how it started but Seoul Station focuses on a few people whose lives are intertwined and are escaping for their lives as the people around them are infested and attack the people around them. These clueless characters learn about what the zombies are capable of and that well, they are actually the undead. Seoul Station has its good and bad. Is it quite as good as Train to Busan? No, its pretty far from the tension and the story pacing and characters. However, that isn’t saying that its a particularly bad animated prequel. It does a good job to set the stage of what its successor can go from and builds an understanding of how the zombies in this world work. Of course, there’s still a lot more to learn in Train to Busan as movies like to make zombies evolve.

Seoul Station doesn’t have quite the exceptional characters to love. The main girl is made to be weak and whiny but somehow makes it through a lot of close calls. Her boyfriend that is on a separate area as they track each other time to meet up is pretty useless as well and makes a lot of bad calls and doesn’t have the guts. However, he is paired up with an older man who is tough as nails. There’s a whole story behind this and that leads up to the plot twist at the end. The story is somewhat generic but the twist was a surprise although the final twist was quite predictable. Where I find it excels is in its art. The movement and speed of the zombies have this blur behind it which is a lovely touch added in to make something of a motion blur and that works wonders for the aesthetics and effect. The areas and the zombie itself are creepy to look at. The tone of the movie and the backdrop here are done incredibly well also.

Overall, Seoul Station might not offer a unique zombie story and has its surprises and some rather predictable moments. However, it delivers on its art and visuals in this animated feature. Not quite as memorable as its successor but still worth a watch to lay the foundation for the next film.

Audition (1999)

Audition

Director: Takashi Miike

Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki, Jun Kunimura, Renji Ishibashi, Miyuki Matsuda

A widower takes an offer to screen girls at a special audition, arranged for him by a friend to find him a new wife. The one he fancies is not who she appears to be after all. – IMDB

In many ways, I can see how Audition is a great horror film. In fact, its quite the psychological journey. Messed up and what not the further you dive into the plot. In fact, the ending is so weird that it kind of goes through a confusing phase. I still can’t quit figure out what went on. As psychological as it all was, it was one of those situations that never felt right to begin with. Auditioning for girls for a role that fitted into what this widower wanted, not sure I’m okay with that since it feels pretty contrived and manipulative in the first place. Nothing good comes from that. Then the girl herself was really weird to begin with but apparently Aoyama (played by Ryo Ishibashi) saw something in her.

The story has many layers and to be fair, it works for the most part. I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of Audition. There are some solid atmosphere here and the pacing is fairly good. The cinematography and sound design is great in boosting the atmosphere. The star of the show probably did have to go to the girl here played by Eihi Shiina who was so creepy and mysterious. The final moments however kind of did it for me. What started out as psychological turned into this torture porn that turned my stomach a little and I’m usually not so easily disturbed by it. If that was the intention, it definitely achieved its goal but for myself, I felt like it didn’t fit in so well.

I can’t quite pinpoint what I felt let me down for Audition but it just didn’t feel like it ever reached the potential before heading in directions I wasn’t too fond of. I do acknowledge it has some great character and a lot of mystery and atmospheric horror. But something just didn’t work completely for myself.

That’s it for this Asian Horror double feature!
I anticipated watching both of these quite a bit but both of them let me down just a little.
I can definitely see their merit but it just wasn’t exactly for me particularly Audition.

Have you seen these two? Thoughts?

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Netflix A-Z: Lady Vengeance (2005)

Next up on Netflix A-Z, we’re looking at a foreign film, thanks to a recommendation on this selection being a favorite out of the Vengeance trilogy by Chan Wook Park.  I personally love Chan Wook Park or at least the movies I’ve seen, like Stoker (which blew my mind). You can find that review HERE!  Its one of my earlier reviews so it might not be as polished.  Regardlesss, I’m giving this one a go even if its the final installment of the trilogy but from what I understand, it has nothing to do with each other storywise but just in theme, so we should be good to go! 😉

Let’s check it out!

Lady Vengeance (2005)

Lady Vengeance

Director: Chan-wook Park

Cast: Yeong-ae Lee, Min-sik Choi, Shi-hoo Kim, Yea-young Kwon

After being in prison for 13 years for murdering a 6 year old boy, Geun-ja Lee is released back into the modern world.  Except this time, she has an elaborate plan to revenge on the man who is the actual killer.  She asks for help from her friends on this endeavor.

 Chan-wook Park has a distinct style in his work.  Its dark and peculiar for the most part.  Stoker and Oldboy both highly resonated those tones and Lady Vengeance is no different.  The intricate focus on the meticulous planning for a revenge by Geun-ja Lee is pretty spectacular.  The colors and the story was good.  However, the first half of the movie took a while for me to warm up to.  Maybe its also the fact that watching a movie like this takes the right mood and I wasn’t particularly in one of those moods but still wanted to check this out. I guess what I should be saying is that the other characters here playing opposite the main character has a distinct difference.  A lot of them are very naive or innocent even if a lot of them were prison mates.  Is that a statement on how Geun-ja Lee isn’t really as “kind” as she claims to be? Or that vengeance changes a person?

lady vengeance

Calm, collected and rather emotionless, Geum-ja Lee is a really great character.  I think the best part of the movie resides in her character and the planning and reactions she makes.  It is mysterious and dark.  There’s something that lurks behind all this that we can never pinpoint. But then, its not hard to be tough after 13 years of jail or having gone through what she has. The thrill of Lady Vengeance is Geum-ja Lee and wondering what she’ll do next. How does all the pieces in the first half fit together to see the ending.  She isn’t all evil.  She seeks redemption and revenge all at the same time.

lady vengeance

Lady Vengeance is a puzzle where the movie pieces itself together step by step.  Its rather slow and bizarre that builds to a rather brutal way.  It works on a more psychological level than say, Oldboy (which I have seen but haven’t reviewed here). The introduction sequence with credits is done so beautiful and setting the stage with beautiful music also.  Its hard to talk about Lady Vengeance without ruining the experience you would get with a fresh view of going into this.  It is a pretty movie to watch from music to cinematography and a good revenge tale.

I’m watching this revenge trilogy completely out of order but that’s okay.  Lady Vengeance was totally worth the time.  Its a little slow in the beginning and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it but as the story pieces together, it turns out to be really fantastic and well-crafted. Its a little mind-boggling but the movie answers most of the questions. It well worth a watch.  I say this one might even be more memorable than Oldboy (since I don’t remember a whole lot except for the shocking ending).

Have you seen Lady Vengeance? How about Chan-wook Park’s revenge trilogy? What are your thoughts?

I’m slowly catching up with Netflix A-Z.  I just needed some TV time with the frequent theatre visits.
But we are back! The next selection is for letter M.  Any guesses? Hint: Foreign (again)