Onibaba (1964)

Unrated  |   |  Horror  |  4 February 1965 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 10,023 users  
Reviews: 70 user | 77 critic

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 overview:
Nobuko Otowa ...
Kichi's Mother
Jitsuko Yoshimura ...
Kichi's Wife
Kei Satô ...
Jûkichi Uno ...
Samurai General
Taiji Tonoyama ...
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 ...


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




Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

4 February 1965 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Devil Woman  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Initially refused a certificate in England by the BBFC in 1965, but resubmitted in 1968 where it was approved with an X classification albeit with some cuts. See more »


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


Referenced in The Mask (1994) See more »

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User Reviews

An absolutely amazing piece of poetry
3 February 2005 | by (Beverley Hills, England) – 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.

39 of 52 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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