Onibaba

1965

Onibaba

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

83%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 12

90%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 5,633
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Onibaba Photos

Movie Info

Set in medieval Japan, Kaneto Shindo's feral suspense tale stars Jitsuko Yoshimura as an unnamed young woman left widowed by civil war. To survive, she and her mother-in-law (Nobuko Otowa) turn to ambushing passing samurai, selling their armor and dumping the corpses into a nearby pit. When the younger of the two women becomes romantically involved with Hachi (Kei Soto), a local farmer and one-time friend of her late husband, the older woman is instinctively threatened; donning a demon mask removed from the body of one of her samurai victims, she hatches a plot to frighten her daughter-in-law into ending the romance, leading to a macabre and chilling climax. Notable for Kiyomi Kuroda's eerily beautiful black-and-white cinematography, Onibaba is among the most visually striking Japanese films of its period, as well as one of the most violently sensual; atmospheric and intense -- complete with a primal, almost free jazz-like score from composer Hikaru Hayashi -- it achieves a mood of foreboding and dread endemic to the finest horror films.

Cast

Nobuko Otowa
as Kichi's Mother
Jitsuko Yoshimura
as Kichi's Wife
Kei Sato
as Hachi Farmer
Jukichi Uno
as Samurai General
Kentaro Kaji
as Runaway Warrior B
Hosui Araya
as Ushi's Follower
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Critic Reviews for Onibaba

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (5)

Audience Reviews for Onibaba

  • Oct 31, 2011
    Brutal. Every action has its re-action. Demons and destiny lurking in the darkest corners waiting for their helpless human prays to be devoured by an entire field of mysteries and inescapable doom. It is noticeably impactful and graphic for its time, yet the movies that surpass any given censorship standard and retain their shock value decades later almost always can be immediately defined as cornerstone masterpieces. This one ranks among the top supernatural horror <i>"monogataries"</i>. 99/100.
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Sep 09, 2010
    Definitely a very moody film. One of the better old school Japanese movies. Would have loved a different conclusion though.
    Wu C Super Reviewer
  • Dec 06, 2009
    <i>''You want to see a face that you could fall in love with?''</i><p>During the Nanboku-ch? period, a woman (Nobuko Otowa) and her daughter-in-law (Jitsuko Yoshimura) live in a small hut in a susuki grass swamp.</p><p><b>Nobuko Otowa</b>: Kichi's Mother</p><p><i>Onibaba</i>(??, literally Demon Woman) (1964) is a Japanese horror film based on a Buddhist parable. Directed by Kaneto Shindo, the film is set in rural Japan in the fourteenth century and features Nobuko Otowa and Jitsuko Yoshimura as a woman and her daughter-in-law who attack and kill passing samurai, strip them of their valuable armour and possessions, and dispose of the bodies in a deep pit.</p><p><div style="width:1280px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/13656816"><img src="http://content6.flixster.com/photo/13/65/68/13656816_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"></div></div></p><p>Kaneto Shindo's <i>Onibaba</i> is the sort of challenging, hypnotic work to awaken spurges of inspiration and splatterings of horror. Until its Criterion DVD in the US, not many people had heard of <i>Onibaba</i>, this is simply an outright shame: <i>Onibaba</i> is a horrifyingly visual masterpiece with depth. As well as being a visual masterpiece, <i>Onibaba</i> is also the sort of story that contains questions poised at morality and principles driving the desperation, lusts and hunger humanity is spurned with. It is the sort of story made for contemplation; Mysterious and so blissfully unconcerned with self gratification, driven by a primally raw score from Hikaru Hayashi. The mask to the face story concerns a woman and her daughter-in-law as they muster and lead a brutal existence amidst tall, wind swept grass and lost wandering samurai. Having no real source of income or sustenance, the two hide among the swaying reeds and kill the unsuspecting samurai, selling their clothes and armour for food. After the bodies are stripped, they are tossed into a hole where, we learn eventually, is littered with previous victims. The women kill, strip, and sell without emotion or even the hint of a troubled conscience, as they are, in the final equation, driven to murdering by the necessity to survive. Their lives appear to be nothing more than eating, retrieving water, retaining patience, and bargaining with their stolen goods. Suddenly, a strange man appears, revealing himself to be a friend of the young woman's husband, whom we learn has been killed in battle. The friend is now looking for food and quite possibly, a little more...</p><p><i>''You turned into a demon! Now stay that way.''</i></p><p>Entrance of the man sends the story into a decidedly erotic spin, exposing the buried desires of each woman, as well as their competitive and lustful instincts. The mother, now past her prime, demands that the young girl stay away from the stranger, but naked lust dictates other behaviours from her. Each evening, while the mother pretends to sleep, the young girl slips away and runs - in an almost insane frenzy - to the man's hut. She is insatiable to be sure, and the sexual escapades are quite graphic for the time. Not only do we see exposed breasts, but the coupling reveals an often ignored element of human sexuality - pure, inescapable need void of morality and grace. An interview with the director addresses the central importance of sex, for at this time and even today, what else is there? Perhaps when the trappings of civilization are laid bare, that is all we have to remind us of our temporary physical existence. This is not a <i>spiritual</i> journey in the conventional sense, as the characters reveal their beliefs in an indifferent cosmos on several occasions. As a character shouts, <i>"I am a human being, not a demon..."</i> (context is vital here, however), revealing the essential humanism of the director's vision. Who we are and what we become as we face the essence of survival become the only vital questions worth asking.</p><p>The imagery and cinematography, from Kiyomi Kuroda, is among the best I have seen, for if cinema is anything, it is the combination of the visual and the aural to create an overall sensation with audiences. Thus here we have a distinct world, impartial from any other seen, and despite its unfamiliarity in terms of experience, it retains comfortability and reassurance with the viewer. Whether one takes the film as an allegory or even literally, these characters are fascinating to behold; As they make moral and ethical decisions that do not reduce the world to rigid dichotomies. <i>Onibaba</i>, for numerous reasons, sparked personal emotions as well as any intellectual appreciation regarding metaphors and symbolism. Therefore, it is increasingly exceeding admiration, releasing this high level of entrancement; This piece is gloriously visceral. <i>Onibaba</i> is cinema, then, in the best sense - moving, striking, honest, and devoid of pre-tense. The film aspires to be more than escapism, but it achieves its fundamental deadlines, avoiding the pitfalls of so many that strive to be self-consciously <i>artsy.</i> Love, sex, desire, death, superstition, and the perils of age - perhaps all, perhaps none. <i>Onibaba</i> is so important because it lingers on in the mind, leaves us enthralled and thinking, which is exactly what film lovers expect from a layered work of art. This is one of the best horror films not just in Japanese Cinema but in World Cinema and rivals anything to come out of the East or West since.</p><p><i>''I'm not a demon! I'm a human being!''</i></p>
    Alexander C Super Reviewer
  • Sep 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.
    Eric B Super Reviewer

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