Sunday, November 27, 2011

Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman

2007 ****

And so I ended my Horrorthon on this nasty note from Japan, another Horrorthonner recommendation that kicked ass (thanks, JPX). Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman is a mean, clever movie that fools you with its flat, realistic look and then stabs you in the leg. It's clever because it avoids several recurring motifs from the J-horror bag of tropes (granted, the titular ghostie is a female ghost with long black hair, but that's about it).

In many ways it still feels J-horrorish, like the scares with no silly music cue, or the general unflinching cruelty. As JPX pointed out in 2008, the Slit-Mouthed Woman is just a straight-up crazy bitch who wants to hurt children (I'm not quoting him directly). And she doesn't skulk in the shadows or under the bed; she can appear in the middle of a park on a bright sunny day.

The movie opens with a montage of people all across town discussing the rumor of the Slit-Mouthed Woman, a genuine Japanese urban legend. Somewhere an eye opens, and a dark monster emerges from a closet. The theme of rumor is a subtle one, and well fleshed out. Just as the ghost is possibly summoned by the new surge in her story, so too can her weaknesses be spotted in the whispers and gossip. The mother of one missing teen evades her police caretakers to investigate herself -- she simply asks a random little girl where the ghost can be found, according to "what everyone is saying." And gets the right answer.

The larger theme of the movie is focussed on abusive mothers and motherhood in general. I'm still not 100% sure where the movie is coming from; no less than three of the main characters are abusive moms, and all of them have a sympathetic side to their stories. The anger represented by the ghost is an anger that possesses; it's possibly the spirit of a long-dead abusive mom or possibly the spirit that possessed her, or maybe even just the essence of twisted, fractured motherhood itself.

There's tragic way that the ghost's actions affect even families without violence, shattering all these lives in the wake of her hateful campaign. I'm being deliberately vague so I don't reveal details, but here's an example. A mom is caught in the crossfire as the ghost battles, and we cut right to her two little girls looking out the window, wondering where she is. The movie doesn't dwell on the fates of these families, but it does a wonderful job of calling death out for the devastating sucker punch that it is.

I think this can be recommended to everyone present. For all my talk, Carved isn't particularly gory. It moves at a quick pace and takes all comers, and it might even scare you.

This was the last movie I watched for Horrorthon, but this is not my last review. One left. Two and a half hours to write it. It's like my second Halloween!


JPX said...

I'm delighted that you watched this! I recall it being different than the usual J-horror fare as you note, but pretty brutal/scary. I like the fact that she's not a vengeful ghost but rather just all around nuts. Her giant shears make for an unsettling image (well that and the slit-face).

Johnny Sweatpants said...

"And she doesn't skulk in the shadows or under the bed; she can appear in the middle of a park on a bright sunny day."

If a movie can provide scares during a sunny day then you know it's damn good. I can count on one hand the number of daytime scare movies - Living Hell, The Omen... that's all I got.

JPX said...


Catfreeek said...

Your doing a review out of order? I'm shocked!