Sunday, 4 January 2015

J-Horror January: A Slit-Mouthed Woman (aka Carved) (aka Kuchisake-onna) (2007)

A Slit-Mouthed Woman (aka Carved) (aka Kuchisake-onna) (2007)
Director: Kôji Shiraishi
Starring: Eriko Satô, Haruhiko Katô, and Chiharu Kawai
Running Time: 90 min

  I'm very excited to see this because I've enjoyed the plotless but very graphic "Grotesque" and the creepy found footage ghost film, "Noroi: The Curse" and both were directed by Kôji Shiraishi.  He always brings something new to the table with his films and really pushes the boundaries at times, so I'm looking forward to seeing this.

  The children of the town are whispering about the slit-mouthed woman being seen in the park.  She is an urban legend, who wears a surgical mask to hide her carved up face and kidnaps children. To parents she an old ghost story but to the kids, she is very real.  After school, three boys hide out at the park to get a glimpse of her because the legend is that she roams the park at 5 o'clock looking for victims.
  Coincidentally, the whole town feels an underground tremor and the spirit of the slit-mouthed woman is released.  The boys are shocked to find that one of them is grabbed by the grotesque and monstrous woman!  The other two boys run away, leaving their compadre in the scissor wielding hands of this monstrous women.  When they return with the police, the boy is gone and the town starts looking for the lost boy in disbelief and fear.
  The schools impose a mandatory teacher walk home with their class rule and at the end of the day, Kyoto leads her class to their homes.  They arrive at the pick up spot and all the children are picked up, except for Mika, who is sad and is wearing a hospital mask.  When her mother finally arrives to pick her up, she refuses to go with her.  Kyoto tells the mom that she will spend some time with her and bring her home safe when she is happier.  Kyoto and Mika walk away and talk about why Mika is so upset.  Eventually, it comes out that Mika is wearing a mask because she is covering up a bruised mouth and she tells Kyoto that her mother beats her mercilessly.  Kyoto tries to make her feel better, but when Mika tells her that she hates her mother, Kyoto yells at her for saying horrible things about her mother.  Mika runs away and right into the arms of, you guessed it, the slit-mouthed woman!  Kyoto runs away and calls the police but Mika is gone by the time she gets back.  Can anyone stop this child abducting weirdo spirit and save any more kids from being abducted or is this evil entity unstoppable?

  I thought that this pretty well done.  Director Kôji Shiraishi (Occult, Shirome) takes a more modern urban legend and brings it to the big screen.  I like the look of the Slit-mouthed woman, it reminds me of Freddy Krueger a bit, probably the scissors and as the movie progresses, you learn that it is an evil spirit that transfers from body to body which is an interesting twist.
  Also, this may put the film in contention with some people that this evil spirit focuses on killing or hurting children.  However, Kôji Shiraishi is staying true to the legend and handles these scenes somewhat delicately and with as much taste as possible.  You have to remember that this is a horror movie and bad things will happen to the characters.

  As for issues, there are a couple.  In the story, Kyoto eventually works with another teacher, Noboru to find Mika and when they have an idea of what is actually happening and where, they don't contact the police.  They just head off to fight the evil spirit on their own, without telling anyone where they are going.  I don't know why they would do that.  Wouldn't they want the help from the police or anybody else to help save Mika and wouldn't it be better if someone knew where they were going so, they didn't just disappear.  I could see if this was in the 80's and there wasn't a phone around but it's not, so just pick up your cell phone and let somebody know what's happening.  It's a small thing but it still irked me.
  Also, there seems to be a general theme on child abuse that could have been taken to another level.  Maybe the fact that the slit-mouthed woman is choosing these children is to punish the parents for their abusive behavior towards their kids, instead of just having the malevolent spirit kidnapping random kids.  Again, it doesn't hamper the enjoyment of the film but it would be a more interesting take and would allow the story to be clearer as to the killers motivations.

  This isn't my favourite Kôji Shiraishi film but it is still an enjoyable watch.  It's a somewhat decent story that drifts a bit but gets pulled back together at the end.  He handles the themes well and there is still enough scary business for even the most harden horror fan.  So if you're looking for films on urban legends, watch this and you'll be seeing ladies with surgical masks and scissors everywhere and older your children closer to you.


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