Kuchisake-onna, the Slit Mouthed Woman is a terrifying Japanese folk tale dating back centuries that, like any good bit of lore and mythology, has evolved over the ages and survived into modern times. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, allow me to summarize. The Slit Mouthed Woman is often depicted as a young woman wearing a surgical mask over her face and a trench coat. She carries a pair of long, sharp scissors (or a scalpel or knife depending on who tells the tale) and corners young people with a simple question: Am I pretty? Anyone who has ever been married knows that this is a trap with absolutely no right answer. If you say “yes” she takes off her mask and reveals her face, her lips cut up along her cheeks and around to her ears in a gruesome smile. If you tell her that she’s still pretty, she takes the scissors to make you “pretty” as well. If your answer is “no” she removes her mask so you can stare in horror as she stabs you to death.
Again, there’s just no way to please this woman.
Slit is a new take on the old legend starring Jennifer Nangle (Demonic Attachment), Hymnson Chan (Killing Joan), Eddie Martinez (The Night Stalker), and Jul Kohler (The Traveler) as the Kuchisake-onna. Leigh-Anne and Eddie are in the midst of an affair. When Bae comes home early and discovers the infidelity, he confronts Leigh-Anne and, as he is leaving, curses her by summoning the Slit Mouthed Woman. The ghastly apparition appears soon after and asks Leigh-Anne a very important question: “Do you think I’m pretty?” Jennifer’s been busy over the last couple of years making herself a staple of the horror community. From her work as horror hostess Malvolia: Queen of Screams to writing, directing, and starring in several short films and some feature length pieces she and fellow cast members are definitely some of the hardest working folks in film at the moment. And that hard work is paying off as Slit has become an official selection of the Women’s Only Entertainment Film Festival. I had a chance to talk to some of the cast and crew recently about the film.
Dan- Give me your take on Kuchisake-onna: The Slit Mouthed Woman.
JN- There are many different versions of this story, as there are with all Urban Legends, so when taking on this story, I wanted to choose one that would fit for telling it from a woman's point of view. The one that I went with, that I knew I could film on a "no budget" budget (since, at the time, that was what the guidelines were for the horror anthology this was going to be apart of) was what I believe is the Kuchisake-Onna's original story: she was the wife of a samurai, whom, while he was off at battle, cheated on her husband and when he caught her, he slit her face so she would become unattractive and therefore, would never be able to cheat on his again.
Dan- Were you familiar with the legend of the slit-mouthed woman before you became involved with this project?
JN- I was, but not to the extent I am now. When I was given this opportunity, my co-producer Jul Kohler and I met to figure out what horror genre we were making for our YouTube channel. At the time each filmmaker was able to choose their own urban legend and present it from a woman’s point of view, but there couldn’t be two of the same story. The Slit-Mouthed Woman was the only one that really spoke to me.
Dan- How do you feel that Slit adds to this mythos?
JN- I feel like it is a very unique Myth. The three stories that pertain to her are all different but can still be merged into one. I didn't use the story about the children because this was a union project and having children on set is a whole different ball game, so I stuck with the infidelity story plot, though I did keep her famous line "Am I Pretty?" I really wanted to have my own spin on it so it could be relatable.
Dan- Is there an underlying message, maybe a moral or warning that you tried to convey with the film?
JN- Urban Legends and superstitions create fear in oneself. I tried to convey the idea that, if you are unfaithful that it can plague your soul. It can absorb you. Follow you. It will always be there. Not just infidelity in love, but in anything in life.
Dan- Telling a story and developing a character in a feature length film takes a lot of hard work and talent. Doing it in a few minutes is even more impressive. What can you tell me about the characters and story being portrayed in Slit?
JN- At the time I was going through a lot. I had just screened Demonic Attachment (my horror baby) and it was doing well in the film festival circuit so I was being noticed. Some of the comments that I was receiving started to really effect me in a lot of areas in my life, though. I tried to manipulate some of those issues into the dialogue and incorporated this into the story where I thought, "This will cleanse me and I will be done with it." Anyone in the independent film world knows how difficult it is to direct and act along with produce, etc... so I thought if I put my emotions into the script, it would help me during the shoot. And it did, but it also prolonged me when it was time to edit. I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. This was edited at the right place and put into the film festival circuit at the right time.
Dan- There was a lot of story to tell in a very short time. What sort of challenges did that create in representing the characters and their story?
JN- Honestly, not that much. I researched a ton. I watched a ton of YouTube videos and read articles about Urban Legends. I wanted to show the three different stages where Leigh-Anne is confronted by three different characters alone. I envisioned the short film in my head before I even wrote it out. I knew exactly what I wanted and what I wanted to say. I felt extremely confident when I sent it out to producer Hunter Johnson, however, he had one note that made the film more powerful. It got me out of my comfort zone which was great!
Dan- Hymson, I was told that you learned a bit of Japanese for your role. Were there additional challenges for you (or any of the cast and crew) during production?
HC- Yes, I did learn some Japanese for my role! It was a little bit more difficult than I thought it would be at first, and Jenn was gracious enough to give me the choice to do those lines in Japanese or English but I just felt it really added a level of authenticity and extra layer to the story and character so I was all for it! "Bae" isn't just a jaded lover but he must have some really deeply hidden darkness within him if he's willing to go to the lengths he does to seek revenge on "Leigh-Anne." Not to mention, he almost gets pleasure out of summoning this demon so doing those lines in Japanese also helped me get into character more. It's like that the moment when "Bae" flips the switch and goes into next level vengeance.
Dan- The special effects and makeup were great in this. Was there an inspiration beyond the legend that resulted in the slit mouthed woman’s appearance.
JN- No, I wanted to stay with the traditional iconic look. Luckily, actress Jul Kohler hada similar look to what I wanted. She and I had similar features as well (i.e. light eyes,dark hair) so it was easy for us to morph into and become one at the end. When it cameto the SFX makeup, I did keep looking at pictures of Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia.Luckily, SFX Artist Kyle Doust is super amazing and I trusted in his work. He just naturally knew what I wanted. I found that trench coat at a thrift store on the side of the road in Florida and it was only$5.
Dan- Being an official selection of the Women’s Only Entertainment Film Festival is a big honor. Are there plans to enter Slit into any other film festivals or events?
JN- To me, any women's festival that I can be apart of is a HUGE honor. I appreciate that women stories are being acknowledged and rightfully so. Not only an Official Selection, but we won "Best Drama" which I am so thankful for! Our first festival and we left a winner. It gave me that boost to keep moving forward to share this story and I will do my best to try and get it everywhere. Maybe even develop it into a feature? You just never know...
Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong. Since sitting down and talking about this film, Slit has been accepted by Third Eye Film Festival, Hollywood Dreams International Film Festival, Happenstance Horror Fest, Action of Film, and Southern Sykos Film Fest. While short, the film is exceptionally creepy with some awesome effects and an interesting take on the legend. Be looking for much more from Jennifer, Hymnson and the cast and crew of Slit because they’ve only begun to scare us.
Dan Lee is a horror fiend and freelance writer with a special place in his heart for monster movies and demonic possession stories.