The Kuchisake-onna, known in English as the Slit-mouthed woman, is a popular bogeyman and urban legend in Japan. Although an ancient legend, she still holds a powerful sway on the Japanese psyche, and as recent as 2004 there have been sightings reported in newspapers, and a mild panic back in 1980's had people running scared from a Kuchisake-onna who had been supposedly hunting down children. "Carved" (Japanese title "Kuchisake-onna") is the latest film to play on the fears of Japan, and manifest this folkloric monster onto the screen.
Almost a straight-forward monster/slasher movie, "Carved" does a good job updating the kuchisake-onna, making the most of her frightening appearance and equipping her with a signature weapon, a giant pair of scissors that make her even more fearsome. The plot holds along with the established legend, with the whisper of the appearance of a Kuchisake-onna spreading fear amongst the school children yet being dismissed by unbelieving adults. Some of the braver children try to catch a glimpse of her, with deadly results, and the plot thickens and the bodies pile up. Some of the story is unexplained, because every Japanese person would be aware of the legend and not need it pointed out to them, and this might be a little confusing, but these instances are rare.
Director Kôji Shiraishi has put out a number of B-ranked horror flicks, like "Ju-rei" and "Noroi", without ever scoring a really big hit. His films do the job on a dark cold night of sending some chills up your spine, but no one should expect any sort of masterpiece. With that in mind, I really enjoyed "Carved", more than I thought I was going to, and feel that he upped the ante over his previous films. The Kuchisake-onna has never looked better, and he managed to make a scary folklore figure even scarier. Most of the real horror of "Carved" comes from the cruel slaughter of children, something rarely seen in US horror flicks. You see a couple of scrappy kids get cornered by the beast, and wonder "How are they gonna get out of this one?" Well, they aren't. They are going to get a big ol' pair of scissors stabbed into their eyes.