Onibaba - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Onibaba Reviews

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February 18, 2014
A striking surreal ultra modern Japanese horror film from the 60s. Full of sex and a ghostly eerie mood.
½ February 7, 2014
The film is a dark drama, bordering on horror. A young woman and her mother in law try to eke out a living in the midst of a civil war. The war has been close by, and the women keep an eye for opportunities to finish off or kill soldiers who stray close by. They trade the armor and weapons to buy food. The early parts of the film move slowly to showcase the boredom and almost mechanical existence they've grown accustomed to. Fear, boredom, greed, and sloth dominate their lives.

That is until Ushi, a former resident, suddenly shows up. Escaped from battle, his arrival begins a sudden and dramatic change in the relationship between the two women. Now jealousy, betrayals, lust, anger, gluttony, and revenge come calling. The movie showcases many negative facets of war. The pacing of the movie speeds up as it nears its end, as the story lines reach their conclusions. No sweeping landscapes like Kurosawa. The tall grass that dominates the area shelters and hides the people, but also keeps the focus entirely on their own lives.
February 4, 2014
Amazing how such a simple concept with a minimum amount of actors can come across so effective and engaging! This film is very peculiar in the fact that it's genre is ambiguous, though I suppose in the second half you can consider it "horror". Speaking of horror, that mask is straight-up SCARY and everytime it was on-screen I was not loving life. The film delves into the human psyche regarding sexuality, jealousy, and loneliness in masterful fashion that I really dug. There is lots of unnecessary nudity that is a bit distracting and the ending is very ambiguous, but wow, this is a cool foreign film with lasting imagery and terrific music!
½ November 2, 2013
Very stylized an hyper-dramatic Twilight Zone-ish horror (but with undisguised and apologetically frank sexuality, a predatory view of others, and selfishly mercenary self-interest).

Isolation and claustrophobia are brilliantly and beautifully created by the setting - unending fields of grass rising well over head height - which creates a rich, lush environment which the characters do not seem able to (or even desire to) escape.

If you ever have the opportunity, treat yourself to seeing this movie on film; it's gorgeous.
½ October 29, 2013
An eerie and twisted tale of violence and sexuality set in feudal Japan, and with a stunning cinematography!
October 15, 2013
A very well made unique film for its time.
April 9, 2013
A mesmerizing look into human sexuality. This brillianly directed movie is a veritable Mazlow's Hierarchy set to film. Superb cinematography and lighting.
½ April 1, 2013
Onibaba takes a while to get going, but ultimately this is a pretty creepy and interesting Japanese ghost story. Plenty of sex and violence, which is surprising considering it came out in 1964.
½ February 24, 2013
Humid and languorous and set in a part of Japan where wild grasses grow and no one wears too many clothes. During the time of samurai warfare, two women kill lost warriors and sell their armor to buy food.. Stunning black and white cinematography lends drama to what is at its heart a simple folktale with a moralistic twist. Not truly a horror movie but it does have some genuine spookiness.
February 3, 2013
The wife and mother of a drafted soldier are left to fend for themselves in the grassy swamplands of rural Japan, where they pay for their meager meals by slaying passing samurai and selling their armor. When a neighbor returns from the war to inform them of their loss, he strikes up a passionate love affair with his friend's ex-lover, causing her mother-in-law to lash out in jealousy and rage. The older woman uses the fearsome mask of a fallen warrior to frighten the lovers from seeing one another, but her selfish pursuit has its own horrifying consequences. Taken from traditional Buddhist folklore, ONIBABA comes from an age of romantic ghost stories known as Kaidan that proliferated in Japanese cinema throughout the first half of the century. The terrors in this film are quite human, however. Here, we see the ravening effect that war has on the common people, the lengths that men and women will go through to survive, and the darkest of human emotions. Kaneto Shind˘ uses deeply symbolic imagery to personify these feelings of hopelessness, fear, and anger, the most effective, of course, being the demonic Noh mask that latches on to its wearer and exposes their inner being. The desperate sex acts committed by the two young lovers are as much about raw, animalistic desire as they are about escaping from the futile and mundane life cycle. ONIBABA is a brilliantly-shot and highly-atmospheric masterpiece that places a very human drama at the height of its success.

-Carl Manes
I Like Horror Movies
December 3, 2012
There's something about Kei Sato's face that is so unrecognizable in this film. Only when I started doing some research did I realize I'd seen this guy in several other films. In Onibaba he's so sleazy! Perfectly sleazy, and just oozing with unsavory carnality. For me, he's what makes the film, perhaps it's because he epitomizes the environment that the characters are in, the world they have found themselves in. Kyoto has burned to the ground (though I believe the dates are mixed up a bit), and it's back to nature for everyone. Many Jidaigeki take place in far more organized, civilized circumstances. There are codes of conduct, and distinct pecking orders. This film, which takes place among the reeds, is an escape from that, and anything goes.
November 30, 2012
The Real Demons Are Within

I probably would have had more of an idea what to expect from this movie if I knew more Japanese folklore. I wouldn't say I really speak Japanese, but I know a handful of words, and the title of today's movie wasn't one of them. The cover of the box should have been an indicator, but it doesn't give any specific detail about what kind of creature we're dealing with. What I do know about Japanese folklore includes the fact that the Japanese have about as many variants of spirits and demons and so forth as the Irish. (And spelling in Japanese is a lot easier!) According to Wikipedia, the [i]onibaba[/i] is a female demon who lives on the flesh of passers-by--or, in some versions, the blood of the unborn. The story is that typical Japanese combination of eerie and depressing, and I won't go into it here. It makes me want to read some books of Japanese stories, but at the same time, I'm a little hesitant.

It is the fourteenth century, and the men have gone off to war. An old woman (Nobuko Otowa) and a young woman (Jitsuko Yoshimura) live alone together by a river. Their hut and the river and everything around is surrounded by acres of high reeds. The women make a living killing samurai who have gotten lost in the reeds and selling their possessions to Ushi (Taiji Tonoyama), who gives them millet in exchange. One day, their neighbour, Hachi (Kei Sat˘), comes home. When he left, it was with the old woman's son, Kichi, who was the young woman's husband. However, Hachi says that they were in a great battle and fled the army. They were looting farmhouses, trying to find food to survive on, when a group of farmers killed Kichi. Hachi joins the women for some of their money-earning activity, but the old woman is not pleased that he is back. She believes that the young woman will leave her alone, and she will not survive. One night, she kills a lost samurai (Jűkichi Uno) and steals the mask he was wearing to try to scare the young woman into submission.

What depressed me about my brief research--and what Japanese audiences were more likely to know--was that this was just the start of fifty years of fighting. Already, the farmers have fled and famine is upon the land. The only men the two women see are soldiers and bandits. The fighting has just started, and it's going to continue for a long time. Things are bad, and they're only going to get worse. Making a living at stealing the possessions of the dead can only work so well and for so long. Already, Ushi is having a hard time finding enough millet to keep business going. Someone has to tend the fields, and in civil war, it's hard to get people to do that. The armies take the farmers for soldiers, and they fight battles all over the fields. The men are dead or off at war, and the women must take on all the work. Worse, there is no law, and women are vulnerable when soldiers come through with no one to stop them from doing as they please.

Neither woman has a name; neither woman had a name in the screenplay, even. On IMDb, they are listed as "Kichi's Mother" and "Kichi's wife." And up until Hachi returns, that is how they define themselves to each other. However, with the news that Kichi is dead comes the awareness that the women must find new identities. The young woman would be perfectly happy marrying Hachi, but there is no place there for the old woman. While the old woman acts like the young woman's mother and in many ways considers herself as such, she isn't. There is no reason to assume that Hachi would be willing to make a place for a new wife's first husband's mother. I think, had things gone differently, he would have rather taken both women in than see the old woman starve, but none of them really talked about it. Everyone was sneaking around behind everyone else's back in one way or another, and that's no way to get anything accomplished.

The old woman insists that it can only be lust that would call up a demon, and that clearly, she and the young woman are doing nothing wrong with how they earn a living. This is ridiculous. I'm not sure they have a whole lot of choice, but that doesn't mean it's right, either. The masked samurai quite possibly would have killed the old woman if she hadn't killed him first, but they actually sneak up on various other men, easy enough to do in the reeds. Hardly anyone would know that they were there, and they probably still would have gotten some things to sell. After all, we see a fight or two nearby between men who don't care about anything but the war. One of them probably would have died even without the women's help. It isn't as much, but in the long run, how much market will there be? We see Hachi catch a fish, and that seems to be the only work anyone in the movie goes through to produce their own food. Though I don't know what kind of crops they could grow around there at that.
½ November 16, 2012
Disturbing Japanese horror drama.
½ November 11, 2012
A genre-defying movie for sure, Onibaba seems to be a mix of period-piece, drama, thriller, and horror. What does it mean? Well, it could be a number of things. Many people consider it a comparison to the after-effects of the A-Bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, as well as the reaction of people. The cinematography is unreal for a 1964 movie, there is nothing like it. Very strange, but sure to invoke immediate discussion afterwards.
November 5, 2012
i love this movie, it is beautiful with all the slow waving grasses, The story is an unique one even though it is basically an old fashioned horror movie., I also, thought if was a bit on the erotic side.
September 13, 2012
The setting was genius and the photography was excellent but the build-up was just a little too long and the pay-off and ending could have been a little bit better.
August 23, 2012
Well, that was different. But I still remember it pretty well a few months later, so it must be doing something right.
July 28, 2012
Typical of early horror films, the plot was simple, the setting enveloping and ambiguous, and the full range of human emotions over-exaggerated.
½ July 24, 2012
An art house horror of the most brilliant kind, Onibaba rises to the level of a movie as much shocking and controversial, as it is graceful and culturally-relevant. Full of sexual tension and furious jealousy, it's a ghost story that will frighten every cinema lover. The few final scenes, with its dark atmosphere and fine use of the mystical curse, give a new meaning to the word 'creepy'.
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