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Bluray Review: The Happiness of the Katakuris

The Happiness of the Katakuris cover
@HellingsOnFilm takes a look at the insane The Happiness of the Katakuris...

Synopsis

From Takashi Miike, the prolific director of such shocking hits including Audition and Ichi the Killer comes The Sound of Music meets Dawn of the Dead!

The Katakuri family run a peaceful country inn at the foot of Mount Fuji. A little more peaceful than anticipated, their only visitors arrive in a series of suicides, murders and inexplicable deaths. In order not to ruin their reputation, the Katakuris decide to bury the bodies, but will the cover-ups come back to haunt them…

The Happiness of the Katakuris combines scenes of grotesque stop motion animation, surreal musical numbers and zombies to make one of the finest horror-comedies ever made.*

Review

A vague remake of Kim Jee-woon’s The Quiet Family, Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi The Killer, Visitor Q) added zombies, comedy and music, to create a film that is, at times, near indescribable. The Happiness of the Katakuris begins with a Claymation sequence (there are a number within the film) that will immediately bring the great Jan Svankmajer to mind), before moving into a surrealistic mix of horror and comedy, with bizarre songs thrown into the mix for good measure.

The Quiet Family was about a family running a failing mountainside guesthouse that keep killing their guests. The Happiness of the Katakuris is the story of a family running a failing mountainside guesthouse whose guests keep dying. It is the story of trying to keep a family together under the most absurd of circumstances. It is the story of growth and misunderstanding, judgement and the generational gap.

the Happiness of the Katakuris image

The Katakuris are a family seemingly struck with bad luck as one guest after another dies in the most abstract of ways, leading the Katakuris to wonder if they’ll ever get a normal guest staying there. They can only live in hope!

In the history of the horror comedy, the best have been Roman Polanski’s Dance of the Vampires, John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London, and Charles Barton’s Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein. In the horror/comedy/musical genre, it can surely be only Jim Sharman’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show that has truly stood the test of time. The Happiness of the Katakuris joins the small list of films that have mixed genres and provided entertaining rewards for the viewer. It is fully of unexpected moments that take you by surprise, leave you shaking your head in wonder at what you’ve just seen, and is well worth watching again and again.

The Happiness of the Katakuris is a satire on karaoke culture and Japanese expectation of the family unit. It’s an outrageous combination of genres not usually seen outside of Bollywood. It’s wonderfully played by the ensemble cast and unlike any film that comes out of Asia or probably ever will again. It’s barking mad in the very best way and shows that original filmmaking is still out there if you search for it.

The film was remastered in HD by Shochiku Co. and provided to Arrow Films as a digital file. It looks excellent, full of lush colours that enrich the already excellent visuals. The special features are extensive and often highly amusing. It’s a great package for a must own film.

The Happiness of the Katakuris is gloriously insane and highly recommended.

Special Features
  • New High Definition digital film transfer by Shochiku Co.
  • Presented in High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD
  • Original uncompressed Stereo PCM audio
  • Audio commentary by director Takashi Miike
  • Audio commentary by Miike biographer Tom Mes
  • Violent 'til I Die: A brand new interview with Takashi Miike
  • The Making of the Katakuris – An original documentary from the film’s production featuring interviews and behind-the-scenes footage with the cast and crew
  • Interviews with the Katakuris cast members Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Tetsuro Tanba and Miike
  • Animating the Katakuris – A look at the creation of the film’s stop motion effects with animation director Hideki Kimura and Miike
  • Dogs, Pimps and Agitators – A visual essay on Miike's career by Tom Mes
  • Trailer and TV Spots
  • Easter Egg
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
  • Booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Johnny Mains; Stuart Galbraith IV on Katakuris' star musicians Kenji Sawada and Kiyoshiro Imawano; Grady Hendrix on Katakuris and The Quiet Family, the film it remade; and a re-printed interview with Miike conducted by Sean Axmaker, illustrated with original stills
Released Monday the 22nd June 2015

* - Synopsis from Arrow Video

David Paul Hellings

Twitter: @HellingsOnFilm

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