DEMON; DEVIL WOMAN; THE HOLE; ONIBABA
Director Kaneto Shindo employs Kurosawas black-and-white starkness to striking effect. The emphasis is on the poverty and bareness of the peoples lives. The film takes place with the most minimal of locations moving back and forward between the two womens hut, Hachis hut and the river, with occasional sojourns to the home of the weapons dealer Ushi. There is the ever-present sea of reeds, which are almost like an unspeaking character in the film their bareness and barrenness seems to act as a giant cyclorama that amplifies the tortured emotions that take place before them.
Kaneto Shindo does an equally good job on the writing. There are some fine stretches of dialogue that survive even through the subtitled translation particularly the scene where the mother confronts Hachi, even offers herself to him, in order to keep the daughter from leaving because, we come to realize, she will be helpless left on her own. There are some wonderfully subtle moments where the mother plays a game with the daughter-in-law digging at what she knows is going on Hachi outside howls to call to her, they presume it is a dog. Its looking for a mate, the mother jibes. The scenes with the appearance of the demon, all underlit and floating through the air, are genuinely eerie. This is somewhat undermined by the revelation of a mundane reality, where, during the appearances, Shindo seems to be trying to conjure something that is clearly supernatural in effect. The film features a surprisingly high degree of toplessness from the two actresses well before such ever became permissible in mainstream Western cinema.
Kaneto Shindo was a director whose career has spanned an incredible seven decades he is still directing in 2010 at the age of 99. However, Oni Baba is the only film of his that is widely known in the West. His one other film of genre interest is the equally powerful Kuroneko/The Black Cat (1968), which returns to the same milieu of a mother and daughter whose menfolk are absent at war and concerns the two women returning as ghosts to kill samurai after being raped and killed.
Full film available online here:-