Onibaba - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Onibaba Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ January 29, 2007
despite the limitations that this film faced with its limited story, few characters, and single environment, the film is incredibly effective with what is put on screen. the cinematography was especially perfect in every way, creating a necessary eerieness that sets the perfect mood for a mild horror film that takes place in the most perfect of settings with the daunting tall grass near an unsettling river. the fear factor was at a perfect level and overall the film is perfect for fans of the old style horror that cares more about story than gore and shock value. one of my favorite horror films of all time.
Super Reviewer
February 6, 2008
A story of survival in extreme poverty during wartime.

Minimalistic and bare, yet at the same time ridden with symbolism. Strongly sexual without being sexy or vulgar.
Super Reviewer
½ November 3, 2007
classic japanese horror tale with frank sexual themes; all about 2 women killing to survive in a hypnotic sea of grass...until a man comes beween them. atmospheric and haunting and full of incredible images and not quite like anything else i've seen. odd but fitting score as well
Super Reviewer
July 3, 2007
Crazy Japanese topless chicks fill a giant hole with dead Samurai whom they kill in order to buy food. After fighting over a dude who moves in next door, another dude, wearing a freaky mask, shows up. Badness ensues
Super Reviewer
May 21, 2007
Well, I don't want to give this one star. It is a beautiful looking film with stunning imagery. It's amazing to me how, with such a restricted environment in which to work, that a storyline could end up so muddy and diffuse. Really disappointing on the whole from a writing standpoint. You would think that a minimalist approach would almost guarantee a tight story. Go figure.
Super Reviewer
½ September 20, 2007
Onibaba is the Picnic at Hanging Rock of 1960s Japan. A bizarre, self-contained film, almost locked within its own universe, it really manages to lure you into that same kind of "bubble". The movie is set entirely in one field of grass, on which the camera lingers constantly...swaying, beautiful, almost intrusive waves of grass.

Onibaba's really gorgeously composed. When the music isn't cheesy, it's minimal and atmospheric, and incredibly well-designed. Some of the pieces really stick with you. Likewise, the visual mood of the film is spot on. There's nary a single frame of the movie where you don't see through nets of grass, which makes the whole thing seem kind of claustrophobic.

Though many of the parts for a truly timeless film were there, not much is going on in Onibaba. The characters aren't particularly deep, and though the story is interesting on surface level, it moves lethargically. Onibaba is successful in its minimalism, but the writing doesn't really resonate.

That's one of the interesting things about black and white films. A lot of people are so averse to them, and even I would normally watch a film in color, but it really brings out the beauty of the image to see it in grayscale. Thus, films that really aren't all that engaging on a rhetorical or compositional level are lent classic status just because of how they look, and how that look makes you feel.

Ultimately, deserving of its arthouse status. It doesn't all hold up, but it's an undeniably interesting film. Give it a look.
Super Reviewer
May 10, 2007
I'm 99.9% sure I know how it ended but it could've been made way clearer. With that being said Onibaba has some beautifully haunting and downright frightening imagery. The story starts off like a demented mother-in-law-daughter-in-law story, but things slowly creep up on a climactic ending that totally pulls it out in the final minutes. There are also an odd amount of topless shots on said relatives which seemed pretty random, but overall the movie's completely worth it. I never thought weeds could be so cool. And the score is truly amazing.
Super Reviewer
January 8, 2007
Onibaba shares my view of what really makes a horror movie, not ghosts or interchangable guys in masks killing teens, it's much simplier than that: real human beings doing harm to each other, completely conscious of it.

In the case of Kaneto Shindo's Onibaba the film deals with basic human emotions: greed and sexual desire, and how these two can drive people to do anything they can to sattisfy their prime instincts, especially in a war-fare enviroment as the one in the film.

It's a shame than most film snobs dismiss directors like Shindo and just stay with the same 3, Kurosawa, Ozu and Mizoguchi. With Onibaba Shindo shows a masterfull control of the camera and story. Worth a check to any serious fan of japanese cinema and cinema in general.
Super Reviewer
September 29, 2009
Witchy, beautifully photographed tale (see plot synopsis) with a small cast and scarcely any sets beyond two little huts and a huge field of rippling, wave-like reeds. The cast and filmmakers did wonderfully with what they had.

Has a surprising amount of topless female nudity for a film of its time.
Super Reviewer
September 9, 2010
Definitely a very moody film. One of the better old school Japanese movies. Would have loved a different conclusion though.
Super Reviewer
½ August 29, 2008
A haunting, beautiful and creepy horror film from Japan.The cineamatography is lovely, every shot is gorgeous, especially the countless images of reeds blowing in the breeze. The soundtrack also fits perfectly.
A must see.
Super Reviewer
½ March 4, 2008
Highly charged tale of sexuality and horror. Creepy, arousing, and powerful.
Super Reviewer
February 24, 2007
A beautiful, horrifying and fascinating film. Wonderful cinematography and a great story help make this a classic of Japanese horror.
½ September 18, 2015
Marking a big list of shame title off the list for my Halloween 2014 viewing, this one is really gorgeous to look at and builds to some truly creepy scenes at the end. Just a great little ghost story and well worth tracking down.

Give it a rental at the very least.
May 2, 2012
Thank the heavens for this erotic and entrancing piece of Japanese Folklore. Discovering movies like Onibaba is the reward we get for not being afraid to watch old stuff from the other side of the world
March 9, 2012
There's nothing creepy here. Just a sparse story of people living in primitive and raw conditions, amid swaying waves of bamboo leaves.
½ November 13, 2011
About twenty minutes less of the build-up would and a little more of the demon mask would have made this better for me.
June 10, 2009
Onibaba was vintage pour moi. The turn of events just hypnotizes and then shocks. Contained-savagery and eeriness.
December 10, 2008
Kaneto Shindo's japanese epic about murder and sexuality really reminded me in a lot of way of Jigoku, but way better. Shindo's film allows to be epic but claustrophobic, overtly sexual yet incredibly subtle. We follow two women, mother and daughter-in-law, as they make their living in war time Japan by killing samurai who wander from battle, stripping them of their possessions, and selling them for food. As the daugher-in-law grows restless, she begins a sexual relationship with a man who returns from war bringing apathy. That's really all the plot there is. There's a samurai with a demon mask to, but the rest of the dramatic progression in the movie is built off of those basic elements. Shindo fills the time by making the setting of his film a character. We never leave the endless fields of reed that the two women and their male counterpart inhabit, and as they dance in slow motion and play in the light, they begin to live and breathe and tell their story along with the characters. They become such an ominous and strange presence that they determine the entire mood of the film, a mood which is already creepily established by the moody and well focused lighting of the film. The craft in Onibaba is absolutely phenomonal, and Shindo really had a grasp on how to set up a film. Sexuality becomes another big element, and the body is treated delicately, sometimes a glowing beacon of lust, and at other times a worn and tired tool of the spirit. The film limps for the last 1/3 or so up until the finale, and then stumbles to the ground. As the daughter is repeatedly haunted by a demon in the reeds, the pace of the film becomes tedious, and we long for the swaying of the reeds to return to us in conjunction with the haunting drum heavy soundtrack, for the imagery becomes more vibrant than the story. The final moments of the film are vicious and uncompromising, striking out a wonderfully appropriate climax to the tension and horror that are built up, but the conclusion to the narrative is a little too ambiguous, and comes off as flimsy instead of indefinite. But while the narrative hobbles around trying to regain itself, the imagery and beauty of the frames doesn't dissipate, and Onibaba is able to keep its stake as a haunting proverb tale and chilling film.
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