Movie Review: The Happiness of the Katakuris

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Director: Takashi Miike

(this article originally appeared in Rue Morgue #33, May/June 2003)

This is the story of the Katakuris, a family that moves to the country to start an inn after the head of the family, Masao, is laid off from his job. But business is not off to a good start; their first guest arrives during a heavy rainstorm and promptly commits suicide overnight. Masao and family quickly surmise that this could bode ill for their business and cover up the death by burying the body.

But luck is not with them and future guests also die, leading the family to more amusing and unpleasant cover-ups.

The Happiness of the Katakuris is not only a horror film, it’s also a satire and, believe it or not, a musical!

This strange combination makes for a truly twisted cinematic experience; in one bit toward the end of the film, the Katakuris even sing and dance with recently unearthed, decomposing corpses.

The film satirizes Japanese social and family values as the characters spout the stereotypically Japanese notions that collective work can overcome any hardship. Amplifying this idea is that the collective here is the family, another crucial Japanese institution.

The film makes its points amusingly, especially near the end when each man in the family offers to turn himself in to the police to take the blame for the horrific events at the inn for which none are responsible.

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