Film, 1964

Boy, they do not make horror movies like this any more. In fact, most modern viewers would probably not categorize this calm and infrequently chilling film as a horror movie, but that is what it winds up being (even if it takes a while to get there). Onibaba, despite it’s simple plot about three characters doing their best to make a living in the hauntingly lonely, war torn fourteenth century Japanese countryside, is a actually a fairly complex morality play exploring what depths people will sink to in order to survive, first turning on strangers, then on their own loved ones. I was told ahead of time that Onibaba was “atmospheric”. In my experience this usually means one of two things: the film is either going to be completely absorbing or unbearably boring. Onibaba falls into the absorbing camp, using the starkness of it’s setting and cast, along with some fun camera and sound work, to draw you further and further into their world. Even with these great elements I found myself a little disappointed by the lack of otherworldly thrills I was looking forward to. Although in the end, despite being a ghost story that lacks any truly fantastic elements, Onibaba makes up for it by delivering one heck of an unsettling ending. 3.5

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