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Original Title:
Kuchisake-onna

Japan 2007

Genre:
Horror

Director:
Kji Shiraishi

Cast:
Eriko Sato
Haruhiko Kato
Rie Kuwana
Chiharu Kawai
Kaori Sakagami
Kazuyuki Matsuzawa
Ryoko Takizawa
Saaya
Yurei Yanagi


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A Slit-Mouthed Woman

aka Carved

Story: In a small suburban town there is a rumor about a slit-mouthed woman making its rounds among students. A woman wearing a trenchcoat, having a big rusty scissors with her and with a face covered by a mask, is said to snatch little children and kill them. It is also said that this woman is hiding a dreadful smile behind her mask, which is going from one ear to the other, as her mouth is slit wide open.
Apart from small children nobody believes in these rumors until suddenly one day several children vanish one after another. When one of her pupils, Mika (Rie Kuwana), is kidnapped right in front of school teacher Yamashita (Eriko Sato), she decides to go after the slit-mouthed woman (Miki Mizuno) together with her colleague Matsuzaki (Haruhiko Kato). The two get closer and closer to revealing the secret behind the strange woman, who seems to have some kind of close relationship with Matsuzaki. It seems as if the mysterious woman is invulnerable. Then the body of one of the kidnapped children is found. Time is running out on the two teachers who make only slow progress until they finally find the hideout of the woman in a run-down house...

Review: How often did we ask for a breeze of fresh air in the Asian horror genre, and still the only thing we got was yet another tale of a revengeful ghost with long black hair. "A Slit-Mouthed Woman" refrains from going into the same direction, showing us the standard picture of an evil ghost. But the most important question is: Can it deliver the kind of salvation we are all longing for to finally escape the all too familiar horror stuff?
The answer is plain and simple: No. "Carved", as the american DVD-verion is titled, more or less heads into the direction of a slasher, even though it tries to stick to at least a bit of Japanese ghost mythology, by bestowing some dramatic background story of a cursed woman on the movie. It completely eludes me why this film has such a good reputation among many horror fans. "A Slit-Mouthed Woman" is a bad horror flick with horrible acting, a simple story and uninventive directing.

The movie's story is based on a real rumor, that is going around in suburban towns of Japan. Almost any student has already heard the story of the Slit-mouthed Woman. Of course, that's reason enough to turn this story into a horror flick and to shock the audience with a supernatural child killer. However, the only thing that proves to be really shocking is the acting. "Carved" is in no way creepy, let alone makes you turn on the lights in your room at any time.
What's also strange is why the woman is always making a strike in broad daylight. Call me old-fashioned, but to see the Slit-Mouthed Woman in pale moonlight at night surely would have been more eery. Even though there are no terrorizing shocking moments, we get compensation by some bloody and brutal killings. Most of the bloody stuff we never get to see directly, but the sound of the woman cutting open the mouth of one of the childrens with her rusty scissors or when stabbing another one with it, is absolutely enough to disturb.

Which brings us to another point. Some may find the child murders to be repulsive and unnecessary, others however may argue that only this way the film gets the essential horror impact. Still, the question remains why every one of the female characters of the film is abusing her child? Is there supposed to lie some kind of message in this? Did the children only become victims of the Slit-Mouthed Woman, because they were beaten by their mothers? We don't find any evidence that would harden this assumption, and still this aspect seems to be part of the movie for a special reason, which however never becomes clear, since the director puts almost no focus on it.
Also somewhat odd is the background story, that tells us which events lead to the Slit-Mouthed Woman becoming the ghostly killer she is. Well, that's all well and good, but where is the explanation for her motive? Why is she killing all these children and why can't her spirit rest in peace?

It's not surprising that the story has many flaws and gaps. Still, why exactly is Yamashita just sitting on her hands when Mika is kidnapped right in front of her, as the appearance of the Slit-Mouthed Woman wasn't really that shocking. And why does she decide to search for Mika together with Matsuzaki soon afterwards? That's all a bit contrived. Furthermore, it's very strange that the news are full of the kidnapping of the children, but nobody seems to be interested in the fact that Yamashita killed a woman. Well, maybe that's just because the two teachers didn't inform the police about it... Another funny thing, even though a completely different topic, is how the mother of Mika manages to get important information about the whereabouts of her daugher just by accident. The story is full of deprived stuff like this.
Besides all of this, what's really gonna sweep you off your feet is the bad acting of the actors. Eriko Sato, model and J-Idol by profession, gives an incredibly awkward portrayal, but she isn't the only one there as her screen-partner and every one else in the movie is at least as bad. B-movie flair can be quite nice at times, but you really can overdo it, too. The worst scenes are those in which the Slit-Mouthed Woman is about to kill someone nearly in slow-motion, while the other protagonists are just helplessly standing around or are behaving clumsy in any way possible. Oftentimes it seems as if the director didn't give any instructions at all and the actors just insecurely stumble across the screen.

A boring and uninventive direction complements the bad overall picture. At least some of the pictures in the run-down building towards the end look somewhat appealing thanks to the bad lighting of the set. Still, this doesn't change the fact that the film looks produced rather hastily. We often get the impression that director Koji Shiraishi wasn't at the movie's set most of the time and thus missed to give his actors necessary directives. Even with them they still would have had their difficulties delivering a neat performance, but the way it is, everything just becomes even more unintentionally funny.
"A Slit-Mouthed Woman" may be entertaining for Hardcore-Slasher fans only and this just concerning a few scenes. Then again, the film most likely won't feature enough violence for them. However, bottom line is this: You really would do good to avoid this movie...

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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