“Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman” – Chris Luedtke

Forgiveness is a virtue, or at least that’s what I’ve heard. But being forgiving can sometimes be difficult. Take the movies, for instance. Ideal expectations include an interesting plot, enjoyable characters, a tense climax, and a resolution by the time the credits hit. Granted, any of these parts can call for change, provided it’s for the better. However, the J-horror letdown Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman is oblivious to all of these ideas and reinvents its simple concept in a horrific way.

Rumors abound in a small Japanese town that a slit-mouthed women has arrived on a mission to kidnap the local children. Kyôko Yamashita (Eriko Satô) and Noboru Matsuzaki (Haruhiko Katô) are two schoolteachers that have come into contact with this ghastly ghost in very different ways and stand by helpless as the number of missing kids begins to skyrocket. As more unexplainable clues emerge, two burning questions remain: who exactly is the Slit-Mouthed Woman, and why is she after the city’s children?

I wish Carved were as interesting as the premise makes it seem. Unfortunately for us, it’s not. Carved is typical stuff for anyone who’s seen a little Japanese horror in their time. Initially, I was curious about it; I can even recall my curiosity piqued by its synopsis and grotesque cover art at Wal-Mart back in 2007. But now that I’ve seen it, I’m glad I held onto my $17.

Aside from that artwork, nothing about Carved appealed to me. Yeah, Eriko Satô is hot, and she’s in pretty much the entire film, but once you get past this, there’s nothing left. Carved rests heavily on rumors of the Silt-Mouthed Woman’s presence, but once she shows up, there aren’t any scares to be had. Her appearance is certainly revolting, but her scenes don’t make an effort to be scary. One of the film’s fatal flaws is that she attacks during the day, though when we do see her at night, she’s still about as frightening as puppy.

The flow of the film is disjointed and cheap. Carved doesn’t wince or even look back once as it strolls down Cheap Shot Avenue. The characters barely have room to grow with trump cards constantly being introduced. From the opening whispers of the Slit-Mouthed Woman to the final scene, there’s a constant mantra of, “Well, you can’t top this.” Each successive twist shaves off another layer of credibility, a trait shared by the villains and heroes. The script is so watered down, I was drowning every five minutes.

I want to have faith in the future of J-horror. The angry ghosts were fun for awhile, but their course has run, leaving more bored and yawning like a kid in a carpet store. Carved at least managed to ignite a spark of rage within me, particularly with its the atrocious ending. I can’t think of any redeeming features here. Nothing is interesting, sets are ugly, the plot is so-so, and little blood is spilled until the end. If quality Asian horror is your bag, then just stick to something like Wishing Stairs. Let Carved fall in with the ranks of the forgotten.

Rating: ★☆☆☆

-Chris Luedtke

Read A.J. Hakari’s Carved review here.

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