|A sinister mood pervades Kaneto Shindo's (The Island) chilling folktale set in medieval Japan. Amidst bloody upheavals between warlords and peasants, two women survive by ambushing soldiers, then selling their armor. Living by instinct alone, the women -- a war widow and her mother-in-law -- are locked in a murderous partnership until the younger woman begins an affair with her husband's friend. Shindo juxtaposes images of the couple's hungry embraces with the older woman's frenzied attempts to come between them. By donning a demon's mask, she hopes to frighten her daughter-in-law, but succeeds only in sinking further into the heart of darkness. Nobuko Otowa is brilliant as the old woman, striking out against men in a man's world. Shot in a sea of giant reeds, and accompanied by an insistent drum beat, Onibaba builds horrifying suspense from the first frame to the last.
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