Some movies are so bizarre — so utterly off-the-wall — that they have to be seen to be believed. It’s not that they’re (necessarily) bad, just that they’re utterly beyond anything else that’s out there, even for the most adventurous movie-goer.
This is the case with The Happiness of the Katakuris, a movie seemingly intent on actively resisting any attempt at conventional description. The DVD box art proclaims it to be “The Sound of Music meets Dawn of the Dead,” which is about as accurate a description as anybody could come up with. The film is part slasher, part comedy, part musical and part stop-motion animation.
The movie comes from acclaimed Japanese director Takashi Miike, a man best known for the torturous Audition and for his contribution to the TV series The Masters of Horror, although his directorial credits — covering 100 films in total — are as eclectic as The Katakuris itself. It includes the video game adaptation Dead or Alive, the period action film 13 Assassins and a live-action version of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
I can’t claim that The Happiness of the Katakuris is a great film, let alone an especially good one. It’s filled with jarring tonal shifts, bizarre non-sequiturs, non-sensical plot twists and seems to throw in everything but the kitchen sink. The number of genres it fits into is larger than most conventional film’s entire casts and it somehow pulls every one of them off.
The Happiness of the Katakuris begins with an outlandish stop-motion horror sequence before quickly transitioning to the film’s chief protagonists, the Katakuris. Spanning four generations, the titular family includes grandfather Jinpei, father Masao, wife Terue, ex-con son Masayuki, divorced daughter Shizue, granddaughter Yurie and their dog Pochi. Narrated by Yurie, it follows the family as they renovate their country home into an inn with Masao’s severance pay while they wait on a planned highway to be built and bring in a string of paying customers.
And while they do get a steady string of guests to their family-run establishment, they keep dying in a series of increasingly outlandish accidents. Afraid that they will be arrested for murder, the family rallies together to hide the growing pile of bodies from the police officers that insist on snooping around in the area.
The deaths are discovered during lavish song-and-dance numbers. Dead characters often joining in the numbers. The death scenes themselves are a sickening mix of frightening and hilarious, and every frame of the film is rife with an infectious energy you’d be hard-pressed to find in another movie.
If you feel like you’ve seen everything the horror genre has to offer and want to watch something new for Halloween, The Happiness of the Katakuris is absolutely the movie for you. And if you want all of your friends to give you questioning, cockeyed glances nervously from across the room, well, this is also the movie for you.
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