Months ago, I watched a film that, after only one viewing, blew me away. I had no previous experience with the director, at least none that I could recall at the time, so I immediately did a bit of research to not only learn of his filmography, but to also find copies of any of his previous films that I could get my hands on. As is normal in most people’s lives, time flew by quickly and while I had collected a few more of his films, I did not make the time to watch any of them. That is, until tonight, when I finally pressed play on Koji Shiraishi’s Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman.
A small town in Japan is being terrorized by the spirit of an urban legend, a woman with a disfigured face who kidnaps children.
I like to think that I have more knowledge of the horror genre than most people, but I still don’t think myself an expert by any means. In fact, there are plenty of people that I interact with on a regular basis that would easily put me to shame without even batting an eye. One of those people is Rottin’ Roger DeMarco, originally from right here at Repulsive Reviews, now operating 3B Video.
While I pride myself on knowing a little bit about a lot of sub-genres, one area where I am lacking is in the foreign market. More specifically, Asian horror films. The little experience I do have from that side of the world is mostly the peculiar and bizarre works of such films as Ichi the Killer. The great thing about horror from the far East is that, if it doesn’t fall into the strange side of the spectrum, it will most likely be one of the creepiest films you’ve ever seen. That is where Carved: The Slit-mouthed Woman more naturally fits into things.
Based on a real-life Japanese urban legend of a malevolent spirit, or onryō, Carved: The Slit-mouthed Woman is very effective at creating a tense atmosphere right from the get go.
Deeply rooted in supernatural folklore, The Slit-mouthed Woman is a surreal story that also happens to have roots deeply planted in reality.
Because the disfigured woman has the uncanny ability of possessing seemingly anyone she desires, it is extremely unpredictable to know when and where she will strike next. This is a great source of terror for the cast of characters introduced throughout Carved: The Slit-mouthed Woman‘s 90 minutes, but that isn’t entirely where the fear lies for the film’s audience.
Shiraishi’s take on this ancient tall tale features a myriad of characters, from school teachers and faculty to parents and their children. There are a number of imperfect mothers who in one form or another are shown abusing their children. This plays a large role in the overall theme of the film, bringing real life trauma into the already frightening ordeal.
Koji Shiraishi does not lack imagination or ambition. What he does perhaps lack is a budget suitable for all of his ideas. Even still, he was able to create an effective film that depicts heinous acts of violence, mostly to children of a young age. While violence against minors isn’t necessarily considered “taboo,” it is my experience that is it still looked down upon very strongly, even in the horror community.
Just as the old Italian cannibal and jungle flicks are looked down upon by some for their graphic depiction of animal cruelty and murder, films illustrating abuse and murder of children is hard for many to sit through. This may be a very strong reason that Carved: The Slit-mouthed Woman lacks the ability to reach a larger audience, but it is this level of real-life horror that makes this film as effective as it is.
Shiraishi never outright shows the extremely large pair of scissors that the slit-mouthed woman carries with her being inserted into a child’s flesh, but there are many scenes of implied and suggested violence with said weapon; Children are shown covered in blood, their bodies disposed of in parking lots and other places where unsuspecting passers by just happen to stumble across them.
To me, this is where the real horror comes from. Yes, the woman, with her dead eyes and expressionless, gaping grin from ear to ear is a menacing sight to behold, but her acts of torture and abuse are what make her a truly frightening presence.
While Carved: The Slit-mouthed Woman is not as visceral a film as the one I was referring to above, 2014’s A Record of Sweet Murder, it is still a solid entry in a large body of work by a very talented filmmaker.
The Slit-Mouthed Woman at Home
I would love to watch this film remastered in glorious HD, but unfortunately it seems that it is currently only available on DVD format.
Presented as part of the Tartan Asia Extreme line, the 2007 home release features an anamorphic widescreen format with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and DTS surround sound audio tracks. Also available are optional English and Spanish subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
If you own this particular home release, you are also treated to some special behind-the-scenes bonus material including a making-of featurette, cast interviews, TV spots, and more.
Shiraishi has a great knack for creating tension and suspense while also scaring the pants off of you with real life situations that enter into the surreal very quickly. His use of practical effects and his command for effective lighting and cinematography make his films a pleasure to sit through every time. Additional, his stories are able to invoke emotions from his actors, a feat that many other filmmakers aren’t capable of pulling off.
Carved: The Slit-mouthed Woman is only the third film (yes, I remember at some point watching another of his pictures, Noroi: The Curse, many years ago, one that I must revisit soon) of Shiraishi’s that I have had the pleasure of watching, but I am extremely excited to continue diving deeper into his filmography.
If you would like to grab yourself a copy of this 2007 film, you can do so by clicking the link below:
I feel as though more people should be watching this man’s films and if even just one person reads this and picks up a copy, I feel as though I’ve done my job successfully!
Check out Carved: The Slit-mouthed Woman today, as I give it 3.5 possessed abusive mothers out of 5.