Friday, October 14, 2011

Night of Terror #14: 'Onibaba'

Holy shit. Today I watched Onibaba, which is just one of seemingly billions of movies made by Kaneto Shindo (Shindo Kaneto?) over the course of his career, still going strong well into his 90s.

Not sure what to say about it, at least not right away, so I guess I'll start with the basic plot. This woman and her mother-in-law earn a modest living in 14th century Japan by murdering wandering samurai, stripping them of their belongings, and tossing them into a giant dark pit. When one of their neighbors who accompanied the man who links the two women by marriage (the younger woman's husband, the older woman's son), comes back alone, saying he was killed in battle, things get weird.

The daughter-in-law starts having sex with the neighbor, causing the mother-in-law to fly into a complicatedly motivated jealous rage. I don't want to give too much away, but she tries to scare her daughter-in-law from visiting the man by putting on a creepy-as-hell demon mask and shouting at her. This has pretty macabre results, in the end. I guess the moral is don't put on a demon mask, for any reason.

Onibaba, like a lot of great horror movies, taps into universal emotions. In particular, this movie deals with the feeling of jealousy - more particularly, that vague, uneasy kind of jealousy where you don't even have a rightful claim on the object of your jealous anger.

This is truly a one-of-a-kind horror movie, or at least one that isn't bound by typical horror conventions. But it's still scary as hell, especially if you have a phobia about mangled faces.

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