“Am I pretty?”
Carved is a movie based on the Japanese legend of The Kuchisake-onna. It’s also directedby Koji Shiraishi, the director responsible for the amazing Noroi. Part ghost story, part tale of redemption, Carved is a film that doesn’t follow the generalised conventions of the genre. Sadly for a film with so much potential, it really isn’t very good.
AS the movie begins there have been a spate of child kidnappings. Many locals blame The Kuchisake-onna. At the local elementary school where some of the abducted children were pupils, the staff provide escorts for the children to & from school in an effort to keep them safe. One of the teachers Yamashita Kyoko learns that one of her students doesn’t want to go home because she is beaten by her abusive mother. This strikes a chord with Kyoko as she lost custody of her own child after being herself guilty of abuse. As Kyoko & the child talk, The Kuchisake-onna appears, wearing a surgical mask & holding a very large pair of scissors. She abducts the child & leaves Kyoko to explain the disappearance to the police. The police dismiss her claims & it is left to her & Matsuzaki Noboru, a fellow teacher & the only person who believes her, to discover the truth about the slit mouthed woman & the fate of the children.
I really wanted to like this film, I really did but it’s such a disappointment. Shiraishi may have been responsible of Noroi, but he also made the lacklustre Grotesque as well. Here Shiraishi’s movie fails to elicit any kind of atmosphere or tension. The pacing is slow & the climax of the film is lame & clichéd. Carved is riddled with problems, none more than the movie’s lead is completely unsympathetic. After all this is a woman who beat her own child. It can be argued that Kyoko’s character in the film is driven by the desire to gain redemption by saving the child, but the fact remains, she is a child abuser. Another problem with the movie crops up when it is translated from Japanese to English. Part of the story revolves around the phrase “Am I pretty?” being mis-heard. I’m sure in Japanese that phrase & the phrase it should have been sound similar, in English they sound nothing like each other. The films one highpoint is the slit mouthed woman herself. A genuinely menacing creation, The Kuchisake-onna differs from a lot of Japanese ghosts & spirits from the movies in the fact she is seen in daylight right from the beginning of the movie. Sadly this just isn’t enough to save the movie.
In closing there are countless better movies out there than Carved, a missed opportunity.