Happiness of the Katakuris 2003 Horror Movie Review
Horror movies Review
A woman is eating soup when she finds a strange object in her soup—a curly-headed pixie who becomes enamored of her uvula and steals it. Thus begins a weird claymation sequence involving ghastly rag dolls, snakes, killer crows, and more pixies.
This one scene alone tells you just what kind of movie “The Happiness of the Katakuris” is, and whether you’re going to like it. Takashi Miike—well known for gruesome action movies—is pretty obviously having a ball as he tells the colorful, chaotic story of a singing family and the people who have the misfortune to visit their hotel. Zombies, random musical numbers, and family strife are all here in abundance.
The Katakuri family is made up of four generations of family, criminal activity, and general hopelessness—the only one currently immune is the little granddaughter.
And things are not improved when the head of the family Masao (Kenji Sawada) is laid off from his job. So he purchases a remote hotel, after being told that a major road is going to be run nearby. But nobody checks in until one rainy night, when a strange man appears—and then stabs himself on a sharpened keychain. Cue the Japanese techno and dance number!
Terrified that the suicide will ruin their reputation, the Katakuris surreptitiously bury the man in the woods—only to have more guests die in bizarre ways, and end up buried in the woods. Oh yeah, and Shizue’s (Naomi Nishida) new boyfriend is a criminal. As a typhoon approaches and their secret burials are threatened with discovery, can this family of failures pull it together—or will everything blow up in their faces?
I have to say that Takashi Miike—famous for the graphic and horrific “Ichi the Killer”—is not the first person I’d have chosen for a black-comedy/musical about a family running an ill-fated hotel. Especially since I have a special fondness for the Korean movie it remakes, “The Quiet Family.” But Miike’s work on this is nothing short of brilliant—a comedy of increasingly grotesque errors, leading up to a literally explosive finale.
A lot of its charm is that Miike does not let his style be constrained by logic—there are wild random musical numbers, claymation interludes, disco balls, wacky spiritualists, and a flying conman who claims to be the Queen’s secret nephew (“Diana! If only I was there!”). He shows no restraint at all, even climaxing the film in a crazy scene where the fear-addled Katakuris—who are trying to re-bury those troublesome corpses—do a carefree song-and-dance scene with a bunch of zombies. It has to be seen to be believed.
And it’s really funny too. While the plot starts at a rather relaxed pace (excluding the uvula-stealing pixies), Miike cranks up the absurdity with plenty of lowbrow humor (a sumo wrestler dies during sex, and crushes his girlfriend), gore, and a general feeling of surreality. Things just get more hysterical and desperate for the poor Katakuris, and Miike never gives them a break (“Maybe we should prepare for the worst,” one of them says when a guest solemnly requests some cord).
Surprisingly for a black comedy, the characters are rather likable, if pathetic—the dad and mom are just trying to keep the hotel afloat while proclaiming love to each other. Tetsuro Tamba’s lovable old grandpa is just trying to keep his family safe when he isn’t killing crows and assaulting suitors. Nishida is also quite good as an eternally desperate divorcee, who is almost superhumanly gullible when it comes to men.
“The Happiness of the Katakuris” is a perfect example of a black comedy—warped, wild, wacky, and full of clay pixies and singing zombies. Now if only somebody could get Peter Jackson to remake this puppy…