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Onibaba (1964)

Unrated | | 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:
Nobuko Otowa ...
Kichi's Mother
...
Kichi's Wife
Kei Satô ...
Hachi
Jûkichi Uno ...
Samurai General
Taiji Tonoyama ...
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
Edit

Storyline

After being forcefully inducted as a soldier into war in 14th century Japan, his wife and mother remain living in a swamp. They eke out their living by ambushing worn-out warriors, killing them and selling their belongings to a greedy merchant. The woman comes to mistrust her daughter-in-law who has coupled up with a deserter, and begins to wear a facial mask she has taken from a slain samurai. In this disguise she is at first taken for a demon by her daughter. Written by Michael Jurich <jurich@rummelplatz.uni-mannheim.de>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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Horror

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

4 February 1965 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Devil Woman  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »

Quotes

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

Connections

Spoofed in Demons (1985) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Death comes from within the ocean of reeds
23 November 2011 | by (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK) – See all my reviews

Onibaba is a supernatural horror film based on a Buddhist fable. It's about a couple of women in feudal Japan surviving the hardships of war by murdering and robbing stray samurais who wander unwittingly into their path. Their domain is a huge field of tall reeds with an ominous deep hole at its centre where they dispose of the unfortunate men they kill. Things are complicated when a male neighbour returns from the war and unleashes sexual tensions within the women which ends in horror. And that is to say nothing of the demon mask...

Onibaba is an artistically strong piece of cinema. From the outset the film is aurally intense, with repetitive beating drums announcing the beginning of the tale. The widescreen frame is consistently used brilliantly, with beautifully lit black and white photography. From the constantly swaying reeds to the close-ups of the protagonist's faces, the visuals capture the mysterious yet ominous beauty of the natural world, while emphasising the intense emotions of the protagonists. The setting ensures that the atmosphere is one of claustrophobia. In fact one of the themes of Onibaba is the way that the natural landscape can shape the way we are. The field of reeds allows the women to get close enough to kill warriors; it is one of the things that shapes them into killers, as it allows them to murder at will undetected. Similarly, the film is an allegory on capitalism. The war has forced these starving women to find their own way to survive the hardships all around them. They take extreme measures to feed the capitalist machine, as they murder and sell on that which they steal to a local low-life. Capitalism has dehumanised them and the black hole in the centre swallows up the victims. But aside from this, it is an intense human drama intertwined with eerie supernatural horror. The scenes near the end of the film with the demon in the reeds are beautifully creepy. While the horrific curse of the mask results in some scary and disorientating final scenes. In addition, there is a powerful depiction of female sexuality. These women are no shrinking violets. They are aggressive, amoral and deadly.

Onibaba is a film that is sumptuous both visually and aurally; yet its characters and story are devoid of beauty. It's one of the best examples of a horror art film.


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