Japan is home to many an urban legend, some of which end up being turned into popular horror films. The Slit-Mouthed Woman (Kuchisake-onna) is one such legend. Conveniently enough, it’s also one of the legends that’s had plenty of media released surrounding it, and this weekend, I finally got around to watching the 2007 horror film “Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman.”
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Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid
Picture this – you’re walking home alone at night, minding your own business, and through your daydreaming you end up down a deserted city street that you don’t quite recognize. Suddenly, you hear a strange noise coming from the shadows and you feel something moving towards you as the hair stands up on the back of your neck, giving you the chills.
You turn around slowly and see a beautiful woman standing right behind you. She has long hair, is wearing a long beige trench coat, and is carrying a large pair of shears.
She looks relatively normal, other than the fact that she’s wearing a surgical mask, but that’s not too strange here in Japan. You do, however, wonder why she’s carrying around this pair of shears with her. Interrupting your train of thought, the woman asks in a haunting voice, “Am I beautiful?”
Being a little creeped out, and honestly thinking she’s a decent looking lady, you answer her truthfully, “Yes.”
Upon hearing your answer, she rips off the surgical mask revealing her mutilated mouth, open from ear to ear. Stretching her unnaturally large mouth, she screams, “HOW ABOUT NOW!?”
Terrified, you struggle to form words in your mouth and answer her. Thinking it’s probably a bad idea to say anything negative at this point, you manage to eke out a weak, “Yes…”
The woman then proceeds to take her shears and slice your mouth from ear to ear so that you are now just as beautiful as she. Oops.
The Legend of The Slit-Mouthed Woman
“Hey Kuchisake-onna, y u so serious?”
The Slit-Mouthed Woman is a vengeful Japanese spirit, or yokai, with her defining feature being her mouth slit from ear to ear (kind of like The Joker). According to Japanese urban legends, she roams the streets at night wearing a surgical mask and asking her victims if she’s beautiful.
In 1979, there were many reports of The Slit-Mouthed Woman sightings throughout Japan, and the ghost was said to target school children in specific. The legend spread like wildfire and actually caused increased police patrols in select areas and schools sent teachers to walk students home in groups to make sure they didn’t get snatched up.
The story of The Slit-Mouthed Woman is thought to originate from the Heian period (794-1185). According to the legend, a samurai had a concubine whom he suspected of infidelity. The woman was very beautiful, but also very self absorbed and vain. In a jealous rage the samurai took his sword and cut the woman’s mouth open asking, “Who will find you beautiful now?”
The concubine became a vengeful spirit (par for the course in Japan) and began to wander the streets, wearing a surgical mask to hide her terrible scars.
In modern Japanese urban legend, The Slit-Mouthed Woman is still wandering the streets looking for victims, still asking the same question she has been for hundreds of years. Typically answered in the affirmative, she then rips off her mask, revealing her slit mouth, and repeats her question.
If you answer no or run away, The Slit-Mouthed Woman will hunt you down and kill you. According to legend, she is armed with a sharp, bladed weapon of some sort, ranging from household shears to a large scythe. In the case of a female victim, the spirit may turn her into yet another The Slit-Mouthed Woman.
Different versions of the The Slit-Mouthed Woman story offer different ways to save oneself if approached by the creature. In some tales, she will leave the victim alone if he or she still says that The Slit-Mouthed Woman is beautiful after the mask is removed. In other versions, however, this will only delay death. If you reply “no,” she’ll kill you right then and there.
Some say that the best answer is, “You look normal.” or “You look so-so.” This is said to confuse The Slit-Mouthed Woman, making her think of how to respond, giving her victim time to escape. Another way to escape is to say “Brylcreem” or “pomade” a certain amount of times. Apparently it is supposed to remind her of an old boyfriend or some nonsense.
Other stories suggest throwing something attractive, such as a piece of fruit, candy, or something shiny, away from oneself in order to distract The Slit-Mouthed Woman. As The Slit-Mouthed Woman is not a magpie, I feel that this last suggestion is kind of stupid, but hey, you never know until you try. Some even suggest turning the question around on The Slit-Mouthed Woman and asking her if she thinks you’re pretty.
As mentioned, a supposed Slit-Mouthed Woman started to steadily make appearances in the 1970s. Surprisingly enough, there actually appears to be a bit of credibility to the legend. In 2007, it was discovered that in the late 1970s there was a woman who chased children who was struck by a car and killed during such a chase. This woman did actually have a torn mouth similar to the story. Whether or not her mouth was like this before or after the crash, who can say. This woman was likely the cause of the panic in the late 1970s.
Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman Movie
The Slit-Mouthed Woman appears in a handful of modern day Japanese media, including references in both film and anime series. Over the weekend I checked out the 2007 horror movie, and I have to say, it exceeded expectations.
Keep in mind though, my expectations were pretty darn low. I’d known about the movie for quite some time, I just never worked up the motivation to watch it as I didn’t think it looked all that great. While the movie was a bit slow to start, once it got going, it was actually pretty decent. You can certainly do far worse than this for a Japanese horror movie. The story was decent, and some parts were actually pretty creepy.
But would I include it on my list of Top 10 Japanese Horror Films? No, probably not. It was okay, but not good enough to make the cut I’m afraid.
And luckily for everyone, if you’re interested, the entire movie is available for viewing on YouTube. Enjoy!
So tell me, have you heard of The Slit-Mouthed Woman before? Seen any of the movies? What did you think of them? Think the urban legend is creepy? Let us know in the comments!