Who Doesn’t Love a Good Demon Hag?

Where’s my damn coffee???

It’s been a beautiful sunshiny weekend in Sydney, and I’ve been stuck in bed with the flu. Thank you to all of the filthy disease carrying commuters on Sydney buses who coughed or sneezed on me last week. And an extra special thank you to the drivers who insist on blasting us with air-conditioning in this bitterly cold winter, recycling other peoples germs and farts so I can breathe them in. This one’s for you.

So, I rolled out of bed today (at noon) and looked in the mirror. Sure enough, I looked exactly like Onibaba, in the picture above. Before I was so rudely infiltrated by the latest flu virus last week, I took myself off to the Art Gallery of NSW for a delicious post-Ramadan glass of wine with my friend Sarah, and a screening of the 1964 Japanese horror flick, Onibaba (literal translation: Demon Hag). I’ve got to say, I am very partial to a good black and white Japanese horror flick. These guys really knew how to create good scary movies. And still do. You’re lying if you tell me you didn’t have nightmares after you watched The Ring or The Grudge!

But back to Onibaba. In a nutshell, it’s a simple tale of vengeance, and what can happen to you if you let it take over your life. During 14th century war-torn Japan, a woman and her daughter-in-law murder samurai soldiers and sell their possessions in order to scrape together enough money to eat. When the daughter-in-law starts running off in the middle of the night to shag one of the neighbours, Mum tries exacting revenge by scaring the bejesus out of the girl by chasing her through the creepy reeds in a terrifying demon mask. But the ugliness of vengeance soon deforms the heart and face of Mum.

No Children of the Corn in here

Onibaba is visually stunning. I loved the haunting shots of the reeds swaying in the wind, the close ups of the actors, and the frightening Hannya mask. The Hannya mask is supposed to represent a hideous demon, but I found it quite beautiful. So, when I rolled out of bed today and looked in the mirror, I didn’t run screaming. Instead, I greeted Onibaba with a smile, blew the snot out of my sinuses, and felt beautiful in my own hideous hag-like way! Mind you, I was probably delirious thanks to being drugged up to the eyeballs. But I think it still makes for a lovely lesson. At times there’s beauty to be found in the the hideous, the sad and the ugly. Just take a look at it from an alternate angle, or put it in a different light.

So if you’re disease-free and looking for something to do in Sydney this Wednesday night, the Art Gallery is screening another black and white Japanese horror flick. This time it’s Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of Macbeth, called Throne of Blood. Come join me. Just remember to leave the germs at home. I don’t want to be waking up on Thursday morning and having an “out, damned spot” moment!

Onibaba Image

Reed Image