Editor, Europe; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)

We've had a couple of news items in the past months about this new Japanese horror movie, starring a female ghost who doesn't just have long black hair but also a grotesquely disfigured mouth. It's the Slit-Mouthed Woman, and the make-up involved looks incredibly revolting (more of which can be seen in the 'continue' part of this review, it's not NSFW but still disturbing, consider yourself warned).

Increasingly occasional ScreenAnarchy contributor James Maruyama has seen it, and has been kind enough to drop us a note in the forums.

Or is that a warning? Here is James...

What was once thought of as a mere urban legend (a tall, surgical-masked woman who spirits off with young children during the twilight hours) turns out to be something much more than a scary tale. This is the premise behind Shiraishi Koji’s latest horror/thriller “Kuchisake Onna” (Slit Mouth Woman).

“Kuchisake Onna” begins with the abductions of several children in the Kanegawa prefecture of Japan. Neighborhood gossip attributes the kidnappings to a wives’ tale of a horrifically scarred ghost called “Kuchisake Onna” (Slit-Mouth Woman) who wears a surgical-mask to hide her deformity.

The local elementary school, where many of the abducted were students, steps up efforts to protect their students by having teachers escort the students to and from school. Teachers Yamashita Kyoko (Sato Eriko)and Matsuzaki Noboru (Kato Haruhiko) are among the teachers assigned to help out.

Amid the hysteria of the kidnappings, Yamazaki learns that her student Sasaki Mika (Kuwana Rie) has been physically abused by her mother (Kawai Chiharu) and does not want to go home. This strikes a raw chord with Yamazaki as she herself lost custody of her own child whom she abused a year ago. As they talk, the “Kuchisake Onna” appears and spirits off Mika. Yamazaki tells police that what she saw was definitely not human. Police Officials dismiss her claims as nonsense and she is put on administrative leave. Matsuzaki is the only one who believes her and suspects that “Kuchisake Onna” is the inhuman vengeful spirit of his own mother (Mizuno Miki) who abused both he and his siblings and who suffered from TB (Tuberculosis).

Together they attempt to unravel this ghostly mystery. What they find however is even more dark and tragic than they were led to believe.

“Kuchisake Onna” is a lackluster bore with cheap thrills, a silly story and embarrassing acting. I’m a big fan of both statuesque, model/actress Sato Eriko (Playgirl, Cutie Honey) and stunt woman turned actress Mizuno Miki (Senrigan, My Lover Is A Sniper, Odoru Dai Sousasen) but frankly their acting here is terrible.

The movie is neither horrific, thrilling nor suspenseful and is almost like some cheap TV movie you’d find late at night on subscription cable. There are one or two somewhat frightful scenes but they unfortunately are too few and far in between.

The “Kuchisake Onna” character definitely has a freakishly interesting look, which bears a resemblance to Christopher Nolan’s new Joker design for the upcoming “Dark Knight” movie as well as Asano Tadanobu’s Kakihara character in “Koroshi No Ichi”.

Shiraishi Koji (who also wrote the screenplay) is no stranger to the genre having directed other cheap horror projects like “Noroi” and “Ju-Rei” but is unable to elicit the genuine shocks and thrills like his contemporaries Nakata Hideo (Ring) or Shimizu Takashi (Ju-on: The Grudge) did in their movies and what we get is just a tame ghost story with no bite.

The central focus on “tween” characters seems to suggest that this film may have been aimed towards children and hence the relative low volume of bloodshed (although as mentioned above there are one or two scenes that are somewhat frightening).

The overall themes of child abuse are used merely as a provocative and exploitive vehicle. It is a cheap shot used in the hopes of sparking some sort of emotional response and we don’t really see it examined in any serious or meaningful way.

“Kuchisake Onna” reminds me of Clive Barker’s “Candyman” in spirit with perhaps Wes Craven’s “Nightmare on Elm Street” thrown in for good measure but with none of either films’ inventiveness.

The predictable ending leaves open the unlikely chance of a sequel but I hope that this does not transpire as just the thought of another “Kuchisake Onna” film...well, that would be the true horror!

Ardvark here again. Thanks James!
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Earlier coverage by Gom
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