SEPTEMBER 17, 2008
“Chop off my head!”
See, that’s the problem with American films. You never see a female character demanding that her son behead her. Luckily we have Japan to bring us films like Carved (aka A Slit-Mouthed Woman, aka Kuchisake-onna), which is the 2nd film this month that more or less focused on mentally unbalanced women killing their children. One more and I get a set of steak knives!
(Wow, totally inappropriate prize.)
Carved is one of the most coherent and straight-forward Asian horror films I have ever seen. At no point during the film did I need to rewind it, check an IMDb synopsis, or consult a friend to understand just what the hell was going on. Women get possessed by an urban legend known as The Slit Mouthed Woman (not “Carved”, so the new title doesn’t make much sense), and kill their kids. Some get a bit of control over the possession and ask their children to kill them instead. Either way, the father’s gonna be pretty depressed when he comes home.
It’s also unique in that it’s a fairly bland looking film. Even when completely incoherent, Asian horror almost always has a unique look and top notch cinematography to enjoy, but this one is shot rather blandly. The location is very dry and sparse; it looks like they shot it in the upper North Hollywood section of Japan. Not that this is a bad thing, just a bit odd.
Another unique thing is that it’s short! 90 minutes is all the time director Kôji Shiraishi needed, and God bless him for it. I am quite sick of the seeming law that all Asian horror films clock in at no less than 110 minutes, especially since that limits the occasions I can watch it to “When I am not in the mood to play Rock Band and thus I can deal with a 2 hour movie instead of a 85 minute one”, which is pretty rare these days.
Oh and the movie itself is actually good. It’s not overly violent, but its disturbing when it is, and since its shorter than usual, everything moves along quite nicely. Also, I kind of like that the film is populated with the least comforting adults of all time. When a little kid asks if the Woman is gone for good, the guy answers “I don’t know” (and his expression is totally “No way, kid!”). Plus, again, mothers asking their children to behead them.
There is one part of the movie that sort of annoyed me. The male lead is a guy who’s mother is the original slit mouthed woman, something he knows. At one point they learn that the woman is taking kids to a house with a red roof. At first the dude is like “There are lots of houses like that!” but then a few moments later he realizes that his house growing up had a red roof. He knows his mother is person he’s tracking, and he never thought to check his own house, even if he didn’t know about the red roof? Nonsense.
Tartan skimped on the extras again, with only 5 minutes of cast interviews (zzzz) and a brief making of that is no better or worse than any of the other brief making ofs you’ve ever seen. Granted, Oldboy is amazing, but I wish they would put that much effort (3 discs!) into some of their other releases every now and then.
What say you?