Am I Pretty?

It looks like we’re entering a period of movies about urban legends. I just watched Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman and Candyman is on bench. I love urban legends–except for the movie, Urban Legend, which I don’t love. Except for the scene when the woman is driving and singing “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” But back to my urban legend love. I grew up reading the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books and moved on to Weird New Jersey magazine when I was about fourteen. Weird New Jersey goes beyond the Jersey Devil myth and tells about places like Demon Alley, Albino Village, the Devil’s Tree, and Shades of Death Road. Plus, it focuses on the weirder aspects of N.J. history, such as the pro-Nazi German-American bund groups in Hackensack, New York City, Passaic, and North Bergen.
The thing is, history itself can be pretty weird. Things like urban legends can be used to understand the past and reflect our current fears. Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman takes a common Japanese urban legend, Kuchisake-onna, and adds a modern twist about child-abuse. The legend itself can be traced as far back to the Edo period, although the woman in question would cover her face with her beautiful kimono. The legend resurged in popularity for some reason in 1979. The modern version features a tall woman with long hair wearing a surgical-mask. She supposedly asks unsuspecting children if they think she’s pretty. If you say “yes,” she pulls down the mask and says “Do you still think I’m pretty?” Then you’ll see that her mouth has been carved from ear to ear. If you say yes, she’ll carve your face to match hers with the enormous pair of shears that she carries. If you say no, then she’ll chop you in half. Supposedly, the way to escape is to answer so-so or ask if she thinks you’re pretty. This will distract her long enough to escape. Or throw sweets at her.
The movie is about the town where the rumor is supposed to have started, thirty years ago. For some reason, everyone is talking about (and drawing) the slit-mouthed woman.

It seems to be an act of child-abuse that summons her, though. The vengeful spirit starts to kidnap within the first twenty-minutes. She’s sufficiently gory and creepy.

The disappearance of local children links schoolteachers Kyoko Yamashita (Eriko Sato) and Noboru Matsuzaki (Haruhiko Kato.) They’re both people with dark secrets and pasts that they would like to hide. Matsuzaki-san, especially, has knowledge of who the slit-mouthed woman was when she was alive and why she’s so angry.
This movie was a bit of a roller-coaster ride for me. There were times when I was, honestly, deeply bored. Sometimes it felt like the movie should have been called Carved: The Exposition-Mouthed Expositioning Woman. Especially when some of the twists were so very obvious. Twist-ending, I am looking at you. Also, I wasn’t terribly scared by the movie. It’s like the movie missed some opportunities to be really scary and settled on gory.
On the other hand, it did have some good points. I will admit that the gore it had was really good. The movie didn’t show a lot, but just the sound of her cutting her victims’ faces was enough. Let me make this clear, before someone takes what I say out of context–I don’t want bad things to happen to children in real life. But, in American movies, children are sacred. In movies like Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the Thirteenth, the killers are chasing teenagers, not kids. You know that if Jurassic Park were real, those kids would have been eaten so fast, probably as an appetizer before killing Jeff Goldblum. I guess this is why Carved was never chosen to remake (Thank goodness, they butchered my precious Ringu.) What I’m trying to say is that I appreciate a movie that’s willing to show that bad things do happen to children and not everyone has good intentions for them. Kids don’t exist to give snappy one-liners and be comic foils to the grown-ups. They’re vulnerable and this movie shows their vulnerability.
Out of everything about the movie, I think that I liked the music the best. It was quiet, understated, and genuinely creepy. It kind of reminded me of the music from Audition.
I also liked how, when the movie went into flashback-mode, the shots became hyper-saturated and warm-toned. They looked kind of like photos from a family album.

Ok, maybe the sickest family ever.
Honestly, writing this review right now, I’m not sure if I liked this movie or not. Parts of it were so boring and I fond myself watching the clock. But parts were very engaging. I guess that the good outweighs the bad and I’d recommend this movie if you already like folklore and urban legends.
For more Japanese urban legends, check out this article in The Japan Times.


About scarina

I like scary movies a little too much. I thought I'd share my obsession with you.
This entry was posted in 21st century, foreign, ghosts, possession, supernatural and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Am I Pretty?

  1. Pingback: Dial “M” for Mother | Scarina's Scary Vault of Scariness

  2. Crypticpsych says:

    I need to watch this at some point…it’s somewhere in my epically long Netflix queue. I’ve always had a love of urban legends…in college, Snopes was my homepage for my internet and I used to check it all the time. I don’t check it as often anymore because of how political it started to get, but I usually check anything I see on the internet that seems REALLY crazy over there at some point. I also used to watch “Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction?” all the time for the same reason.

    It’s one of the reasons I’m in the minority in that I actually kind of sort of like the movie Urban Legend….but mostly because I think the “concept” is original…the execution I’ll freely admit leaves a HELL of a lot to be desired….and don’t get me started on that sequel that I’ve mostly managed to thankfully block out of my mind since I saw it.

    This, though, it seemed like a really interesting concept to me when I first read about it a few years ago in Rue Morgue. I didn’t know it was based on an actual Japanese urban legend, but i’m always interested in stuff like that (I reviewed an I think Thai movie last year called The Coffin that was flawed but that I liked that was based on an actual Thai live burial ritual, for instance). I probably don’t have as extensive a knowledge of foreign urban legends as you do though. :)

    • scarina says:

      Netflix cut my queue off at 500. Jerks. Although, there are a lot of multi-disc documentaries in my queue.
      Ahh, I used to love Snopes. The legends about the left and the right are both terrifyingly crazy. I do love using it to check out the chain-letters my parents send me. I remember “Beyond Belief!” That show kind of rocked.
      I haven’t seen that movie in forever, I just remember the woman in the car singing “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
      Oh, I just added The Coffin to my queue.
      Hee, I’m pretty familiar with Japanese folklore. (: I started reading it after I saw Ringu. Sadako is based on a character from folklore.

  3. Pingback: Ringu | Scarina's Scary Vault of Scariness

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