Monday, October 4, 2010

31 Days Of Horror: Day 4: Onibaba

This is part of the Final Girl's Film Club from the immortal (we hope) Stacie Ponder.

The first thing you will notice about Onibaba, is that Onibaba is hella classy.

Seriously, it’s like class up the wazoo. Classier then Axe Body Spray, Red Bull, and Ron Burgundy’s well wishes combined.

I’ll stop now, I promise. Maybe. The point is that Onibaba is one arty ass film which derives it’s terror from psychological torment and hypnotic elliptical beauty in both cinematography and design. This is directly opposed to most other films that will be featured on 31 Days Of Horrror, which derive their terror from a giant mountain man ramming some sort of bladed tool through an unsuspecting citizen.

The movie follows a old woman and her daughter in law. Her son to go fight in a war, and she and her daughter in law must fend for themselves. Which they do by trapping and killing stray samurai in a nearby very large metaphor.

This merry little arrangement is soured when the missing son’s friend show’s up, announces the kid is dead and then shacks up with his wife. The mother afraid that they leave her she might sink even lower, begs them to stay, and when that looks like it might not work, she starts preying on her daughter’s superstition with the help of a Demon Mask that she took from a young samurai she killed.

As you might suspect, things are about to get all kinds of allegorical up in this bitch. Oh and face melting too. Face Melting is definitely about to get up in this bitch ass well.. Allegorical face melting. With the class. Seriously, this makes The Innocents look like Black Sheep or Saw III in terms of reserved grandeur.

Every frame looks like it should be hanging on Morticia’s and Gomez’s wall. This is like The Barry Lyndon of Horror films. The great thing about Onibaba is that the self evident artistry in it’s making never once overwhelm the pulpy brilliance of its premise. It’s like if Kenji Mizoguchi directed an episode of Tales From The Crypt. (Wait isn't that Ugetsu?... I'm going to cinephile hell aren't I?")

Of course as by the rules of this particular brand of moralistic genre fare, those who live very large metaphor must eventually die by the very large metaphor. But the way it gets to that point are not all easy to predict. It’s a film that’s aiming not to scare, but to terrify. And that kind of film is much rarer, its something the seasoned film fan isn’t always ready for, and it puts even the most jaded watcher somewhat off kilter. It’s not just the animal reaction most horror film’s go for, Onibaba want’s to get a level of intellectual revulsion as well as physical revulsion. And it succeeds.

At the end of the day, Onibaba may not be a film I’m always in a big hurry to rewatch, but it is the perfect thing for the discerning genre fan who wants something a little different.


stonerphonic said...

mmhmmmm... classy...

Aaron said...

Ron Burgundy would indeed approve. ONIBABA is good stuff. Such a visual and aural triumph for the time it came out... great use of expressionist style. One of my favorites to come out of Japan.

liquid said...

It's not often you see a movie that can make extended shots of grass fascinating.

Aaron said...

"It's not often you see a movie that can make extended shots of grass fascinating."

You haven't seen Cheech and Chong's UP IN SMOKE, have you? ;)

JESCIE said...

Emily said...

I agree wholeheartedly. Gorgeous and grotesque film that has such a haunting power. And you know, class.

The Film Connoisseur said...

It is classy, and artsy, but I thought it would be more of a horror film. In reality it doesnt have much horror to it, as you mentioned in your review, I personally see it as more of a morality tale. I love the black and whites on this film, and I got to genuinly hate the character of the mother!

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Stonerphonic: Classy as a motherfucker. Which isn't very classy now that I think about it. Classier then a motherfucker I guess.

@ Aaron & Liquid: Or Pineapple Express.

@ JESCIE: VERY cool.

@ Emily: Lotta Class.

@ Franco: I agree. I think the best way to think about it, is as an EC Horror comic at feature length. Lotta build up, but the payoff makes up for it.