Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by Tartan Video
Am I pretty? – The slit-mouthed woman.
Directed by Koji Shiraishi
Written by Koji Shiraishi and Naoyuki Yokata
2007, Region 1, 90 minutes, Not rated
DVD released August 14, 2007
Eriko Sato as Kyoko Yamashita
Haruhiko Kato as Noboru Matsuzaki
Miki Mizuno as Taeko Matsuzaki
There's an urban legend of a woman who catches and kills kids. Not if they're bad. Not if they disobey their parents. She just does. Because she's a very angry spirit. And ugly, to boot. She's got a gash on her mouth that makes her extremely unattractive. This isn't a legend to keep kids in line, either. Adults seem to believe in this crazy lady as well. She's just a part of life.
So when kids start getting snatched up, and witnesses describe the kidnapper as the slit mouthed woman, everyone starts keeping a closer eye on their surroundings. And their children.
Local school teacher, Kyoko Yamashita (Eriko Sato – The Sinking of Japan), gets personally involved in the search for Mika — a young student grabbed from Jane's care, in broad daylight no less (you can't really blame Kyoko, though. That slit-mouth woman has a wicked pair of scissors that are, no joke, like two feet long. She's crazy.). Besides, Kyoko has some spare time on her hands since the school has given her a 'break' seeing how the kid got nabbed on her watch.
Soon enough, Yamazaki teams up with fellow teacher, Noboru (Haruhiko Kato – Kairo) — who harbors some secrets — and, together, they are determined to end the slit-mouth woman's reign of terror once and for all.
But how do you kill something that can't be killed?
At first glance, Carved: The Slit-Mouth Woman is yet another Asian long-haired-girl-ghost story. And, to some degree, it is. But it's also part of Tartan's "Asia Extreme" line, so you know there's something about it that's just different enough that it deserves to be part of that catalogue. And, to some degree, there is.
One of those things is the way it was shot. One of the things I tend to love about Asian flicks — horror in particular — is the knack they have for atmosphere. Certainly, many of their more notable horror films center around the long haired spirit, but they consistently nail the atmosphere of their horror films, more so than any other culture. But the difference with Carved (from the other films I've reviewed as of late) is this angry assed woman takes care of business, many times, in either broad daylight or well lit environments. Sure, there are some moody, darkened cellar scenes. But, hell, when you are see the slit mouthed woman remove her mask for the first time — on a sunny day, no less — it stops your breath for a moment. And when she opens that shark-like mouth of hers, forget about it. You'll be reaching to light up your own environment.
Another thing that makes Carved stand out from its competition is that Ms. Slit beats the ever loving shit out of the kids in her care. She doesn't smack them around. No sir. She whales back and coldcocks them. Or slings them into walls. When she's not cutting open their mouths, that is. That's one thing I'm certainly not used to, seeing kids kicked around like that on film. And it certainly packs a punch. Pun quite possibly intended.
But, unfortunately, there's not much more to Carved than those two things. The story itself is weak, the main reason being, and this is a minor spoiler, Ms. Slit does the things she does is because she was insane when she was alive. Nobody did her wrong. She just is. I certainly don't have a problem with an antagonist just being insane, but don't give me a backstory as if to explain a character's motivation, only to find there is no motivation.
There's sub-plot of mothers who smack around their kids thrown in the mix, perhaps trying to relate everything, but its poor execution doesn't allow it to develop. It seems to be brought up only on occasion, as if it's a simple hindsight. For example, Yamazaki is separated from her own child because of her temper, so when she finds that Mika herself is being abused by her own mother, Yamazaki takes issue. Whatever.
Also, there are more than a few plot holes that hurt the film. Really, with all the press on this case, and (assuming, here) all of the police investigation going into finding the missing children, a school teacher questions a couple kids, and a 5-year-old leads her to the hideout? That just doesn't fly.
Even still, Carved does have that wicked looking spirit, and it even manages a few scares. But you must check your brain at the door and you'll be fine. I just have a tendency to expect more from Asian horror.
Video and Audio:
Carved's 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer has a few spots and some instances of softness. What's interesting, though, is the yellowish filter that it's filmed through. It's almost as if you are looking through the eyes of the slit-mouthed woman herself.
The DTS track is adequate, but not ear blowing. It doesn't stand out like most "Asia Extreme" releases, but it's not too shabby, either. As what's come to expected, there are no pops or hisses, and voices are never overridden by the score.
- The Making of Carved
- Cast Interview
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
Carved is a little light on the special features, especially when you consider the "Cast Interview" is really nothing more than fluff.
However, if you want to check out what the slit-mouthed woman looks like out of make-up, give that making of a spin. It runs just over 15 minutes and in addition to getting a gander at Miki Mizuno, the woman behind the make-up, you'll get a few clips of her getting prepped for her scenes. There's also an amusing clip of Haruhiko Kato macking some of the local women.
The "Cast Interview" runs just about five minutes and his brief interviews with Eriko Sato, Haruhiko Kato and director Koji Shiraishi. Three interviews in five minutes. Speed dating takes longer. Easily skippable.
Carved: The Slit-Mouth Woman isn't the best "Asia Extreme" release by far, but it's a deserving member of the lineup due to its break from the norm. It's just a shame the filmmakers didn't develop a tighter story. Give it a rent.