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Onibaba (1964)

Unrated | | Drama, Horror | 4 February 1965 (USA)
Two women kill samurai and sell their belongings for a living. While one of them is having an affair with their neighbor, the other woman meets a mysterious samurai wearing a bizarre mask.

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Cast

Cast overview:
...
...
Kei Satô ...
Hachi
Jûkichi Uno ...
Samurai General
...
Ushi
Someshô Matsumoto ...
Runaway Warrior A
Kentarô Kaji ...
Runaway Warrior B
Hosui Araya ...
Ushi's Follower
Fudeko Tanaka ...
Old Woman
Michinori Yoshida ...
Samurai with Blood
Hiroyoshi Yamaguchi ...
Horse Riding Samurai A
Hiroshi Tanaka ...
Horse Riding Samurai B
Kanzô Uni ...
Horse Riding Samurai C
Nobuko Shimakage ...
Child
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Storyline

In the Fourteenth Century, during a civil war in Japan, a middle-aged woman and her daughter-in-law survive in a hut in a field of reed killing warriors and soldiers to trade their possessions for food. When their neighbor Hachi defects from the war and returns home, they learn that their son and husband Kichi died while stealing supplies from farmers. Soon Hachi seduces the young widow and she sneaks out of her hut every night to have sex with him. When the older woman finds the affair of her daughter-in-law, she pleads with Hachi to leave the young woman with her since she would not be able to kill the warriors without her help. However, Hachi ignores her request and continues to meet the young woman. When a samurai wearing a demon mask stumbles upon the older woman at her hut asking her to guide him out of the field, she lures him and he falls in the pit where she drops the bodies of her victims. She climbs down the hole to take his possessions and his mask, and she finds he is a ... Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The most daring film import ever...from Japan!

Genres:

Drama | Horror

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

4 February 1965 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Devil Woman  »

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The demon mask used in the movie inspired William Friedkin to use a similar design for the makeup in subliminal shots of a white-faced demon in The Exorcist (1973). See more »

Quotes

Woman: I'm not a demon! I'm a human being!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Hitman: Blood Money (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

 
An absolutely amazing piece of poetry
3 February 2005 | by See all my reviews

To describe this film in one word, that word would have to 'wow', or something to that effect. In short, Onibaba is an absolutely spectacular cinematic spectacle, and one that has few equals in it's field. In fact, it's the perfect fusion between art-house cinema and atmospheric horror! Loosely based on a Buddhist fable, Onibaba tells a story of lust, envy, wrath and betrayal which is wrapped up by way of a hideous demon mask. Onibaba is a human drama before it's a horror movie - all the character actions are driven by their various needs and wants, and the all the comeuppance emancipates from there. The characters and their actions are constantly fascinating, and it's that which predominantly keeps the film alive. We follow a mother and her daughter-in-law; a couple that are forced to eke out an existence in war torn Japan by killing passing samurai's and selling their belongings for food. Their existence is upset one day, however, when the son's friend, Hachi, returns from the war to the place where the two women live.

The title of the film roughly translates into English as 'demon woman', and that is an apt title for this story. Although the film doesn't contain any actual demons or other mythical creatures, the real horror comes from the character actions and the film succeeds as a horror film in that way. The atmospheric location, which consists of a huge area covered in reeds, adds weight to film's claim to the horror genre also and the location provides a truly stunning set for this story to take place. The film also features a dark pit, which the women use to dump the bodies of the Samurai they kill, which adds to the fantasy and inventive element of the story. The film is cinematic poetry on many levels, from the bleak yet beautiful cinematography, to the elements of the location mentioned - all the way down to it's central piece of imagery - the mask itself. The mask is the film's centrepiece, and the part's where it features are the most memorable of the movie.

Prolific Japanese director Kaneto Shindô takes us on a tour-de-force of atmospheric direction. He spends a fair amount of time focusing on the reeds blowing in the wind and many of his angles focus on the sky, which will no doubt irritate the less adept viewers amongst us - but the rest of us know that this is a way for Shindô to aptly portray his setting, and every instance when he did that was a delight for yours truly. There are many great shots in this movie, and if you're a fan of technical prowess, Onibaba is your film; and even if you're not, this film is a must see.


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