to the Japanese urban legend, the homicidal Kuchisake-onna “Slit-Mouthed Woman”
was disfigured and driven mad by her abusive husband. When a ne’er do well
Western drifter takes on her morbid appearance, it is due to the bad karma she
herself generates. Kuchisake-onna’s surgical mask accessorizing will come in
handy as the now ugly Anglo stalks her prospective victims in Anabelle &
Huntly Munro’s sinister short film Gaijin:
Fish Out of Water (trailer
which screens during this year’s Action on Film Festival.
may indeed be scuffling, but the Westerner seems to take perverse pleasure in
feasting on offerings left at Buddhist shrines. However, she probably should
have been more suspicious of the unrefrigerated fish. After suffering indigestion
and fever chills, the woman will wake up in an otherworldly bamboo forest,
bearing the ear-to-ear carving of a Slit-Mouth Woman.
woman quickly learns she has been on the receiving end of a Karma beatdown
(although we should note at this point Buddha is also infinite in his
compassion, just don’t go out of your way to antagonize him). She will try to
cheat fate through a Faustian bargain, but it will be a tall order, given the
fact she just isn’t as alluring as she was a few hours ago.
Gaijin is a cool film
that mixes archetypal myths (both ancient and contemporary) with a noir-ish
visual sensibility and a very-of-the-moment dubstep soundtrack. It has an icily
severe aesthetic that is quite compelling, especially since it completely eschews
spoken dialogue in favor of occasional comic book-inspired intertitles.
Although their narratives are drastically dissimilar, Gaijin would make a stylistically fitting pairing with Sol Friedman’s
short Junko’s Shamisen, which puts it
in good company.
To its credit, Gaijin feels like it was produced by longtime expats who were
comfortable working in Tokyo subways and back alley Shinjuku bars. Frankly, its
ironic twist ending would probably be easier to anticipate if the entire film
were not so disorienting. Altogether, it is a distinctive short film that will
get under viewers’ skin, in a good way. Highly recommended for fans of J-horror
and urban legends, Gaijin: Fish Out of
Water screens tomorrow (9/9) as part of the 2016 Action on Film Festival,
in Monrovia, CA.
Labels: AOF '16, Kuchisake-onna, Short Films