Day 19: Onibaba (1964)
By Sam Reeve
Today’s film for Japanese Horror Month is more of a historical drama than a horror movie, but a decent one nonetheless. Onibaba (Demon Hag) was directed by Kaneto Shindo. Interesting fact: Shindo directed his last movie at the incredibly old age of 98!
Set in the 14th century during a civil war, Onibaba tells of a mother and her daughter-in-law who live in a hut situated in the middle of a reed field. They kill soldiers who wander into the field, taking their weapons and armor to sell for food. Hachi, a friend and fellow soldier of the woman’s son, returns from war with news of the son’s death. Despite how much of a pig Hachi seems to be, the widowed girl starts hooking up with him, much to the dismay of the old woman. To punish the girl, she wears a demon mask she took from a dead samurai and scares her. The mask, it seems, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, which inevitably punishes more than just the girl.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: Although it’s really not scary at any point in the movie, I can appreciate that it was made a long time ago and was perhaps a lot more shocking back then. I found it interesting to see the amount of nudity and sexual content in such an old film, but then again the Japanese don’t seem as prudish as Western Christian cultures.
The story was alright, and I enjoyed it most for the cultural aspect of it. If you like Japanese folklore than this modified tale will interest you.
The last scene was pretty awesome at least, when the [SPOILER] mask gets stuck on the woman’s face and then rips her skin off.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: The guy the girl hooked up with was seriously douchy and gross, so it seemed only right for the older woman (whose son the girl had been married to) would meddle with the affaire. It annoyed me that she was the one who got punished in the end and not the girl, who seemed kind of slutty and immature. But maybe that’s just me.
If you want to watch Onibaba, you’ll probably have to source a dvd or torrent it. Good luck!