Thursday, October 29, 2015

430. Onibaba/The Demon (1964)

Running Time: 103 minutes
Directed By: Kaneto Shindo
Written By: Kaneto Shindo
Main Cast: Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Sato, Taiji Tonoyama, Jukichi Uno
Click here to view the trailer


In my town, trick or treating is taking place as I write this. Kids (and probably a lot of adults too) are currently dressed up, going door to door, celebrating the holiday that plays hosts to ghosts, goblins and all things scary. Meanwhile, I'm chillin' in my warm bedroom, doing my part by watching Onibaba. Read on...

Okay - for the first time in a few reviews, I can actually recount this plot intelligently, which is exciting. The film revolves around two women, a mother (Otowa) and her dauther-in-law (Yoshimura), who, during wartime in Japan, make their living by killing lost samurai and selling their gear. They take the bodies of the slain samurai to a giant hole, where they throw them in. From there, the girls take the gear - swords, armor, everything - to a merchant named Ushi (Tonoyama), who gives them millet in return. It should also be noted that they're son/husband (respectively), has gone off to war. Well, one night, just as mother and daughter-in-law are preparing for supper, a fellow soldier who accompanied their son/husband to war, returns. He tells them of his plight and ends by telling them that their son/husband is dead. The returning soldier is Hachi (Sato) and he's an obnoxious fellow, who, at first, tries to horn in on the girls' samurai killing business and when that fails, tries to convince the daughter-in-law to sleep with him. She refuses at first, but one night, when the old woman is fast asleep, she sneaks off to Hachi's hut and the two begin their affair. The following night, the young girl sneaks out again, but this time, the old woman follows her and finds out what she's doing. At first, she feels like the young girl is betraying the spirit of her dead son, but then the old woman starts to get aroused herself. Later, the mother goes to Hachi and propositions him for sex, but he turns her down. One night, while the young woman is with Hachi and the old woman is set to spy on him, she is approached by a man in a demon mask. He tells her right away that he's not out to harm her and that he only wears the mask because his face is so handsome, he didn't want it wounded in war. He asks the old woman for directions out of the reeds (where they girls live) and she begins to show him. However, since she knows the paths and he doesn't, she manages to lead him into the giant hole, where he falls to his death. I'll leave it at that...


Man, this was just what the doctor ordered! Finally, something to get excited about (not counting Throne of Blood, which I'd seen before) and a movie that gives me a perfect example of why I started THE BOOK in the first place - to find movies from other cultures, from other decades that I could appreciate, that I wouldn't have seen otherwise. By the way, this is yet another entry in THE BOOK, where whoever is writing the passage for Onibaba, seems to be forgetting chunks of the movie. When THE BOOK recounts the plot, it would have you believe that the mysterious, demon masked man who appears to the old woman has a far bigger role than he does and yet, THE BOOK makes no mention of Hachi when summarizing the plot and he should be considered a main character. Also, THE BOOK adds some stuff that either isn't accurate or else I was meant to assume it and didn't. THE BOOK notes that the masked, demon man is an A-bomb victim, hence the sores on his face when the old lady pries the mask off?! Ummm...huh? Wikipedia notes that the film is set in the fourteenth century, thus a-bomb victim wouldn't even be a thing. My take was that either the masked man lied about being super handsome and he was actually disfigured OR after prolonged use of the mask, once it was pried off of him by the old woman, it messed up his skin - THUS the same thing happened to the old woman when she wore the mask and it rained. That's one of the very few things I really dislike about THE BOOK - it's ability to muddle facts (including running times, release years and foreign titles) and forget things/add things that aren't true when summarizing the plot.

Anyway...more rhetorical questions/theorizing:

I kind of think it would've been better if the old woman would've drove the young girl away multiple nights AND THEN went to Hachi's house herself and since he'd have some pent up sexual urges to release, the old woman talks him into going to bed with her. So then you get this dynamic of the old woman and the young girl feuding over this guy and the demon mask playing into the woman's plot to keep the young girl away from, who she now considers, HER man. It actually seems like this was the old woman's plan, as there is a brief scene of her spying on a sexually frustrated Hachi. I LOVED the scene with the woman, in full demon regalia, watching the two make love in the grass, as the rain poured down. FANTASTIC SCENE! The woman sports a bit of a head cock that would later become synonymous Michael Myers in the Halloween movie - that cock of the head saying so much. A wonderment at young people in love, a sexual desire that she wishes she were experiencing herself. Has there ever been a film before that so perfectly blended both sexy and scary so well? It's definitely a hard cocktail to get right, yet Kaneto Shindo does it with ease. Definitely a really fun, really intriguing movie that feels like an extra long episode of The Twilight know, if The Twilight Zone had boobs.

RATING: 7.5/10  Kind of have to wrap up fast because I'm on my way out the door to pick up Ruth - but yeah, I'm very thankful that something I was able to really sink my teeth into came along and here's hoping the final three are just as enjoyable.


October 29, 2015  7:16pm


  1. I agree with you, I like this movie quite a bit. Certainly a good one for Halloween.

    1. Happy Halloween always, thanks for stopping by.

  2. Glad to find a good one so near the end of the list .. We seem to have had a run of .. Well, let's so so-so films that have not inspired me to say anything of interest.


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