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Archive for June 19th, 2012

Onibaba (1964)

During Japan’s cival wars, two peasant women (a middle aged woman and her daughter in law) make their living by ambushing and murdering war-weary samurai soldiers who are trying to hide in the long reed grass. They strip the soldiers of armour and weaponry before selling them for sacks of millet. The bodies are dumped down a very large hole. One night a male neighbour of the two women returns from the war but minus his companion (the middle aged woman’s son and wife of the younger one). He insists that the son was killed by vengeful farmers but he escaped. He helps the two woman in killing 2 samurai soldiers one day and doesn’t hide the fact that he has his eye on the widowed daughter. She is more than happy to have the attention and is soon sneaking out after night when the old woman is asleep to the man’s hut to have sex with him. The mother soon catches wind of this situation and isn’t very pleased that the daughter in law has forgotten about her dead husband so quickly. She decides to try and break the relationship up by telling the younger woman that the man is like a dog in heat. She even asks the man if he’ll take her instead but he refuses. Her tale of eternal pain for those in hell if a person sins isn’t enough to make the younger woman stop her nightly trysts. Luck comes her way one evening when she comes across a samurai soldier who is wearing a demon mask. She kills him and rips the mask off the samurai’s face as she is going to use it to scare her daughter in law away from the man. The next night whilst the younger woman runs off for her nightly sex session, she is confronted in the reed grass by a terrifying vision of a female demon in a long flowing white dress. She runs back home scared stiff. The same thing happens the next night but on the 3rd night whilst it is raining something unexpected happens…….

Onibaba is a supernatural movie based on a Buddhist fable, it isn’t like some people say a genuine horror flick at all. It’s a movie that aims at portraying the darker and animalistic side of human nature. From start to finish it draws you in with fantastic imagery and scenery of Japan’s rural areas and even though there are very few characters in the movie, through it’s minimalism it effectively tells it’s story. It taps into our primal and sexual nature. The story is told with rising tension set in a sea of swaying long grass reeds and loud wind. None of the characters are that sympathetic but you still find yourself wanting to know what happens to them in the movie. The black and white photography is superb along with the ominous beat of drums that adds to the mood of the movie. The wind howling through the reed beds and the isolated position of the women’s hut also make it very atmospheric. The reeds take on a menacing character and with the pit full of dead samurai soldiers, the director has managed to create a movie that is unique and extremely eerie. The movie is frightening not because of any scares you see but for the fact that it serves as a warning for what human beings are capable of. The performances are excellent from the three main characters. This movie is a very haunting, erotic, mesmerising and simply brilliant masterpiece.

If you’re a fan of Japanese cinema, Onibaba should be on your list of movie to see. It has the power to hold the viewer completely in it’s spell. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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