FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE...beware yon spoilers!

Aug 15, 2007

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Straight outta Compton Japan comes the newest release from Tartan Asia Extreme: Carved (The Slit-Mouthed Woman)...and yes, it's fairly extreme.

The hottest urban legend making its way through the schoolyard is the tale of The Slit-Mouthed Woman; she wears a surgical mask to hide her disfigured face and roams the streets looking for children to kill with her long, pointy shears. "Am I pretty?" she asks, then she makes with what the French call le stab-stab.

Soon children begin to disappear, said to be victims of The Slit-Mouthed Woman. Desperate parents and earnest young schoolteachers mount a search to unravel the mystery before Good Ol' Slitty decimates the entire youth population.

I had a real love-hate relationship with Carved. Wait, scratch that- the 90 minutes we spent together weren't so much "love-hate" as "love-hmmm?", for you see, every amazing element about this film was counterbalanced by an unanswered question or a point of confusion. For example, by the end of the film the phrase "Am I pretty?" morphs into "Aim for my neck"- perhaps there's a translation issue, or the phrases sound similar in Japanese and the children confuse one for the other in the recounting of the tale. It's clunky, but it's not something that gets in the way of enjoying (or understanding) the film.

Much like Candyman, "The Slit-Mouthed Woman" is a name whispered in the schoolyard and used to threaten naughty children- behave yourself, or The Slit-Mouthed Woman will snatch you and kill you. Also like Candyman, this killer has an origin story that's revealed during the course of the film- and it's got nothing to do with the "origin story" explained on the DVD case! It's not the age old story of infidelity and jealous husbands, as the case claims- instead, it's a harrowing story of child abuse...and this is where Carved puts the "extreme" in...uh, "Tartan Asia Extreme".

While there's little explicitness in Carved, I honestly can't imagine this film seeing the light of day were it an American production- violence against children is one of the last taboos in cinema. I know people who were offended by the off-screen killing of a child in High Tension- they'd be certain to go apoplectic if they took in this film. Children are hit, kicked, tied up, stabbed, slashed...but again, it's not completely explicit. The child abuse is tightly-woven into the plot, however, and at times it feels a bit relentless. It's ballsy- so be warned; there's equal opportunity violence here.

To those of you who've had your fill of wet, long-haired ghosts and think that's all there is to Asian horror cinema, give Carved a try. This film is not your typical supernatural ghost story fare- The Slit-Mouthed Woman appears in broad daylight, and she does far more to her victims than simply glowering at them. Carved is much more visceral than you'd expect; it resonates in reality and in the end, it's far more disturbing than most ghost stories. I enjoyed the film more and more as it went on, and the last half-hour or so was relentlessly creepy.

Overall, Carved was a pleasantly frightening surprise. Just remember- if some strange woman asks "Am I pretty?"...always say yes.

9 comments:

Bill Walsh said...

Wow! Hey! That's real Japanese folklore! She's a 口裂け女!

And, incidentlaly, Stacie, I'm beginning to suspect you might be a Kuchisake-onna, since "always say yes" is advice that will get us all killed! Or at least get us seriously big-mouthed.

(At least in some legends, you have to say something like, "Eh, you're all right," or "Not bad." Because if you say, "no," she's pissed because you're dissing her, and if you say "yes," she's hacked off because you're lying to her.)

Stacie Ponder said...

Dammit, you revealed my secret plan! :D

Thanks for the link...cool stuff.

OK, then, how about..."Always say 'meh'"?

cinebeats said...

This looks interesting! I like her "undead female Ichi the Killer" look.

spazmo said...

Looks creepy.

Would she kill me even though I don't understand Japanese?

Or would spooky English subtitles appear over her chest?

Goose said...

It looks creepy enough. I love Japanese Horror. It seems to be more creepy and less slasher. Not that I don't like a good slasher.
I do.

Stacie Ponder said...

Actually, I'd say this film is, not to get too technical, quite slashery as well as creepy. It's pretty violent, and the blood does flow freely. It's certainly more violent than any other J-horror ghost stories I've seen.

A Case of You said...

I actually wasn't all that taken with this film. I think my love of on-screen violence and such made this problematic for me. I just felt like it kept pulling its punches. See my review here: http://www.fusedfilm.com/2009/09/movie-review-carved-the-slit-mouthed-woman/

Kizzy said...

no! Never say "YES" she will think you're lyring and kill you. If you say "NO" she will kill you. You have to say "SO-SO" this confuses her and gives you time to run away. Thats how the legend goes.

Anonymous said...

Haven't seen this flick yet. But maybe the "am I pretty" "aim for my neck" misinterpretation revolves around "kire!" (imperative: "cut!") and "kiree" (pretty). "kubi o kire!" means "cut the/someone's/my neck", whereas "kubi ga kirei?" means "is my neck pretty?" In informal speech, the particles ga and o could be left out. And "kubi" could perhaps be misheard as "Kumi": "Kumi kiree?" (is Kumi pretty?) vs "Kubi kire!" (cut my neck). I'm only guessing. I will see what the wording actually is.

Basically, this is why we should watch foreign films subtitled, rather than dubbed.

This kind of thing is worth a solid explanation planted in the subtitles, sticking on the screen for a while.