The Legend: A beautiful, young wife has an affair then taunts her impotent husband with details. The husband becomes enraged, grabs a pair of scissors, and mutilates his wife. After slitting his wife’s mouth from ear to ear, the husband asks “Who will find you beautiful now?” Now, the woman roams Japan, a surgical mask over her face to hide her horrific visage. If you meet her, the Split-Mouth woman will remove the mask and ask “Watashi kirei?” (Am I pretty?) If you answer no, then she stabs you to death with a large pair of scissors. If you say yes, then the Slit-Mouth Woman will let you live. But before she lets you go she’ll carve your face up so you will have to go through life with similar mutilations.
The Slit-Mouth Woman, or Kucki Sake Onna, is the most famous urban legend in Japan. During the late 1970s, school children picked up on the legend and the story slowly evolved so that children were the main target of the Slit-Mouth Woman. Eventually, the legend grew so great that a national panic erupted in Japan. Fearful parents and teachers walked terrified children to and from school everyday. News outlets ran stories about the mysterious woman stalking the innocent. Since “no” meant death and “yes” meant an end to your good looks, children were urged to reply “so-so” to the Slit-Mouth Woman’s question. The reasoning was a neutral answer would protect them from harm. After a while, the urban legend died down only to resurface in 2000. Around 2004 the story jumped over to the Korean peninsula. Apparently, the Slit-Mouth Woman prefers to chase Korean kids these days.
The film: Carved (a.k.a. Kuchisake-Onna). Director, writer Shiraishi Koji changes the Slit-Mouth Woman’s back story which waters down the impact of the original urban legend. Instead of an adulteress punished for her transgression by a jealous husband, the Slit-Mouth Woman is depicted as an abusive mother who receives the injuries from her son as the boy protects himself from his crazy mother. The whole “Am I pretty?” seems out of place since the context of the question is missing from the film. Shiraishi sees Slit-Mouth Woman as a supernatural child killer, sort of a female Nippon version of Freddy Krueger. Despite screwing with the story, Shiraishi does a nice job of capturing the community’s escalating panic as Slit-Mouth Woman kidnaps more and more children.
Mizuno Miki, who plays the legend in Carved, is pretty damn brutal in this film. When she isn’t hacking kids with her scissors, Mizuno is usually punching the snot out of the little booger eaters. After eating knuckle sandwiches, the kids receive stomps and kicks for dessert. All of this child abuse is hard to watch because the ten-year-olds are played by real ten-year-olds. It’s not like watching twenty-somethings playing young kids in a US production. Personally, I would’ve preferred seeing Mizuno slash away at more twenty-something couples and fewer scenes involving children in danger.