One of the joys of childhood was first hearing scary urban legends. I vividly recall being told the tales of Bloody Mary and the hook man. As I watched "Carved," I became completely wrapped up in the urban legend of the slit-mouthed woman, much I like I would have as a child.
The story: A popular urban legend about a severely scarred woman wearing a face mask (dubbed the slit-mouthed woman) begins to become a reality as the she sporadically appears around a Japanese town kidnapping young kids. Trying to save the children and uncover the truth, Ms. Yamashita and Mr. Matsuzaki begin to discover a series of clues. Does the deadly slit-mouthed woman have a connection with Mr. Matsuzaki and does her spirit infect mothers? Time will tell.
"Carved" finally delivers what few horror films do- widespread panic. In 90% of horror films, whenever a killer or monster is on the loose in a town, it only seems to effect a select few (even though the entire town is under siege.) Here, we see the entire town is in a state of fear as children's lives are in jeopardy. I have always felt the impact of events have greater importance when we see their effects on the community.
Speaking of delivering, the script written by writer/director Shiraishi Koji does just that. The script is skillfully constructed. Everything from a mother/daughter relationship to a mother/son's relationship is tied together. No scene is wasted. The only drawback from the script was the conclusion. The story comes off too predictable and follows the trend of having an open ended ending to set up a possible sequel like in "Ringu" or "Ju-On."
As for the slit-mouthed woman herself, she makes a skin-crawling villain. Not only is her appearance visually freaky, but her actions are even more disturbing. Mid-way through the film, we get our first glimpse at the crazed woman's hideout. In the scene, she tortures young children whom are tied up. THANKFULLY, the violence is mostly off-screen which makes it all the more effective. What we don't see is what scares us. Note: If you are easily scared or traumatized by horror, this is not a film for you to see.
The anamorphic widescreen video has a few problems. Whenever a sunny or brightly lit scene rolled around, it was a little blinding. Maybe my eyes are too sensitive, but I found it bothersome. The subtitles are also a little too light. They aren't hard to read, but I wish they would make the white subs darker or at least go with yellow subs. Aside from those minor quibbles, everything else appeared fine. The scenes in the dark were surprisingly crisp and clear. Many horror films with dark scenes can be hard to see. Not the case here.
The disk gives you the option to choose three audio tracks: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, DTS Surround Sound 5.1, and a Japanese 2.0 Dolby Digital track. I played the 5.1 Dolby Digital track with English subs and it perfectly balances the Japanese dialogue and the music score.
A non-bare bones disk- Hallelujah! Extras included: TV spots, a theatrical trailer, English and Spanish subtitles, 5 Tartan Asia Extreme previews, a 5 minute cast and director interview, and the highlight- a 15 1/2 minute making of "Carved." While the making of feature is fairly basic and not in depth at all, you do get to see how nice and inviting the set was. Actor Kato Haruhiko proves to be entertaining as he makes the crew laugh by joking around with dummies and so forth. It's always nice to see a production go smoothly without any divas complaining and causing headaches.
"Carved" may be a tad predictable, but that doesn't change the fact that it's an above average spine-tingler that far surpasses most modern Hollywood horror releases. Fans of the genre should not hesitate to give it a chance. See it with the lights off.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.