“Kuchisake-onna 2” (AKA “The Scissors Massacre”) (2008)

Another short review, because there’s less going on here than in some other films. What do I mean by that? Only that this is a fairly straightforward story of tragedy, which precipitates the “birth” of a vengeful ghost. There’s not much plot to analyze–but in this case, that may be a good thing.

If you’re not familiar, Kuchisake-Onna is a wicked-cool, terrifying yokai (roughly, monster) or yuurei (ghost) from Japan. I’m really not sure which classification makes most sense. While my significant other happens to be Japanese, she’s understandably noncommittal on issues of evil spirit cataloguing.  So I’ll refer any interested parties to the incredibly excellent blog of Mr. Zack Davisson. I don’t believe Zack D. has posted anything about Kuchisake-Onna yet, but he’s the go-to guy for this stuff.

The name “Kuchisake-Onna” is usually rendered as “Slit-Mouthed Woman” in English. Kuchisake-onna 2 is the (sort of) sequel (or prequel, I guess) to Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Womana mediocre (but watchable) horror film from 2007. I say “sort of” because the characters are different, the plot is totally unrelated, and the atmosphere is so completely unlike that of the first film that you’d never know they were related if not for the titles and the prominent roles of women whose mouths happen to be, er, slit.

“Urban legend” is a term that gets thrown around a lot in pop culture, thanks primarily to folklorist Jan Brunvand. More often than not, today folklorists use the term “contemporary legend” instead, because they’re very often not urban at all, and the whole point is that they’re set in the recent past (as opposed to the more conventional concept of a legend as a story set in historical times, but at a considerable remove from the present).

The contemporary legend of Kuchisake-Onna is fairly simplistic (and fairly terrifying). You meet a woman–on the road, in a public (but deserted) place–wearing a surgical mask. This is not uncommon in Japan, where people often wear masks if they’re sick so as not to spread nasty bacterial death to the folks around them. But this woman asks, “Watashi kirei?” (“Am I beautiful?”) Then she removes her mask, revealing a horribly disfigured mouth that stretches ear to ear (think Heath Ledger’s Joker and you’re halfway there).

Kuchisake-onna as she appears in the first Carved film.  (Japanese Tattoo Goods)

Regardless of how you respond, you’re gonna get cut–unless, of course, you answer “pomade,” a seemingly nonsensical response which abler minds than I have analyzed.

Kuchisake-onna 2 really has nothing at all to do with the first film, except that (eventually) there’s a woman with a slit mouth who kills some folks. But in this case, the seeming disconnect is actually kind of interesting. The film basically posits the existence of multiple kuchisake-onna, which I think is pretty neat. Here she is in the second film (sorry for the low-res screen capture):


It’s not the same person at all. The two kuchisake-onna are two totally different women with very, very different stories–a notion that is surprisingly innovative in the face of a fairly well-established tradition.

I wouldn’t call this a great film, but it’s very watchable. It’s also very slow, so don’t go in expecting a bloodbath (there’s some blood, but it’s nothing compared to most American genre flicks). The horror-y stuff really doesn’t come in until the very last section of the film (maybe the last half-hour or so), but it’s still an interesting contribution to the Kuchisake-Onna mythos. More than that, it’s totally tragic, so if you’re into unrequited love and hand-wringing and frowny faces, this is for you. Poor Masumi-chan is one of the more tragic figures I’ve seen in a scary movie in some time, which makes the ultimate appearance of the murderous slit-mouthed woman all the more unnerving.