School Children start talking about the urban-legend of the Slit-Mouthed Woman, who walks about wearing a surgical mask and carrying a blade. That’s a bad idea, because she turns up and starts kidnapping kids; some she kills and others she cuts so that they have the same facial wound as she. Kyoko Yamashita (Eriko Sato), a young teacher who has abused her own child, is present when a girl (who has been abused by her mother) is taken. Kyoko teams up with fellow teacher Noboru Matsuzaki (Haruhiko Kato), who was abused as a child and now hears the Slit Mouth Woman’s voice, to find the missing children.
This is an odd little movie. I can’t decide if the makers intended for it to be a comedy (a dark, dark comedy) or if it just turned out that way. There’s plenty to laugh at one way or the other. Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman is about child abuse, particularly from over bearing mothers (always a good topic for a comedy…). The filmmakers have an axe to grind on that score, though it’s hard to pull a message from all the stabbing, besides “Japanese mothers suck.” Perhaps that is the message. Certainly after watching you’ll be glad you weren’t raised in Japan (assuming you weren’t). Kids just keep getting whacked. One mother after another belts her kids, then the title ghost kicks them, over and over. It’s so far over the top, and so mindless, that I couldn’t help snickering. This isn’t an in-depth examination into the plight of beaten children; it’s just the beatings.
Even stranger is the choice of the ghost. The Slit-Mouthed Woman is a character from Japanese urban myth who may, or may not, come from an older ghost story. In the modern variant, she walks the street wearing a surgical mask (common in Japan to stop the spread of disease). She asks strangers if they think she’s pretty. When they say yes (since what shows appears to be), she removes the mask, revealing her slashed face, and asks again. If a person says yes a second time, he’s probably safe, but if he screams or runs, she stabs him to death. If the victim is female, she may slice her, creating another Slit-Mouthed Woman. In the 1970s, rumors spread that a Slit-Mouthed Woman was grabbing children (which doesn’t fit with her modus operand, but who am I to question superstition). The ghost was supposedly created hundreds of years ago, when an insanely jealous samurai cut up his vain wife’s face while saying, “Now, no one will find you pretty.”
The movie keeps the ghost’s looks, and the surgical mask, as well as the focus on children from the ’70s, but drops the rest. Her creation is very different (and highly improbable). She still asks “Do you think I’m pretty” but the answer is irrelevant. The question is as well since she never waits for a response. Nor does she seem to care as nothing indicates this ghost is vain or is upset about her condition. It’s as if the script was written for a generic female ghost, and then at the last minute the Slit-Mouthed Woman was tossed in.
The low budget shows everywhere, from so-so makeup and limited sets to acting that displays a lack of rehearsal, but none of that drags the movie down. Instead, it increases the camp value. A well-made film with a woman robotically kicking a child might have been unpleasant. As is, it’s a hoot.