SLIT MOUTH WOMAN IN L.A.
There have been several films based on the legend of the Slit Mouth Woman with The Slit-Mouthed Woman (1996), Slit-Mouthed Woman (2008) and The Slit Mouthed Woman Returns (2012), as well as the pinku film The Slit-Mouthed Woman (2005). The most popular of these was the series begun with A Slit-Mouthed Woman/Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman (2007), followed by A Slit-Mouthed Woman 2/Carved 2 (2008) and The Slit-Mouthed Woman 0: The Beginning (2008) where the Kuchisake-onna was made into another J-horror series along the lines of the Tommie, Ring and Ju-on/The Grudge films. In that the Slit-Mouthed Woman is an urban legend, none of the films are bound by copyright meaning that there have been several competing tellings of her tale with some of these bouncing off the success of the 2007 film. Slit Mouth Woman in L.A. does not appear to be connected to the main series or any of the other film versions it does not, for instance, come from the same production company or feature any of the same personnel from any other of the above-listed.
With Slit Mouth Woman in L.A., four different Japanese directors have come to Los Angeles and hired a bunch of unknown local actors (and one or two Japanese actors) to make the film. The intent seems similar to the English-language remakes of the Ring and The Grudge series, as well as a host of other Asian horror films, namely to head the Americanisation process off at the pass by making their own English-language version first. What results is four different tales in which the Slit Mouth Woman is more akin to the narrator in an anthology, connecting the tales. She does not feature in several of the stories, which concern themselves with other aspects of Japanese folklore. That said, she does feature in the final tale, which also unites all of the other stories together far more solidly than most other anthologies ever do.
None of the directors have a particularly high profile. Akira Hirose has made a couple of action films, including one erotic samurai film; Takeshi Sone appears to have made several other horror films, including the After School Ghost Story series, which stretches to four films, although nobody appears to have seen these; while Hiro Kay is a newcomer. The only other director I had previously heard of was Kazuya Ogawa who previously made the strange and obscure Killer Motel (2012).
I kept wanting Slit Mouth Woman in L.A. to kick in with the spooky uncanniness of the better J-horror films. But it didnt. It feels at best like a wannabe. Of the four segments, Kokkuru-san is the most substantial storywise and reaches a resolution that comes with the appearance of a ghost and a mild twist on what is happening. On the other hand, I failed to buy the central relationships in the story. The idea of three guys in their twenties all having an unspoken crush on a waitress at a Japanese-themed bar and running around like junior detectives seemed like something that belongs in one of the regularly-made Japanese high-school dramas. It feels like a vision of American culture made by people outside the country.
Furen the Evil Hunter is the slightest of the stories. It feels like no more than a B-budget superhero film the title monster hunter turns up and engages in a few animated power blasts and there is little else to the piece.
Many people at the screening I was at had walked out by this point but things started to improve with Umekos Friends. Here the film starts to deliver something spooky, particularly when it comes to the end of the episode with the ghostly Umeko coming after Jordan A. Borges like another Sadako or images of her brother Kanschichi Hiro evoking the curse and hammering at a tree. It is here and in the final episode Am I Beautiful? that the varying story strands start to come together and merge the various characters that have appeared throughout into an interwoven story. Overall though, this amounts a couple of spooky images but a not particularly memorable film.
(Screening at the Shivers Cinemafantastique Film Festival)