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The Happiness of the Katakuris (US Blu-ray review)

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Because you’re reading this, you probably already are familiar Takashi Miike, the notoriously prolific Japanese director who put himself on the worldwide horror map with Audition in 1999 – recently voted number one horror film of the 2000s by the AV Club. Yet Miike’s career can hardly be relegated to a single film, or even one genre – his work often flits between the horror, action, cult, and thriller. In his 2001 hodgepodge, The Happiness of the Katakuris, Miike breaks all conventions, blending aspects of his entire career’s work (and more) into a single film. A film that has been described as “The Sound of Music meets Dawn of the Dead,” Katakuris is often branded as a horror comedy. But this isn’t the full story, because it isn’t really anything in particular. Rather, the film is a pastiche of absurdity, as it metamorphoses between a musical, romance, black comedy with gross-out humor, mystery, a little horror, and even some fantasy Claymation. Strangely enough, it’s also a remake of a Korean dark comedy called The Quiet Family, which doesn’t come anywhere close to the weirdness on display in Miike’s version.

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The plot is such: fed up with life in the city, a patriarch moves his family to the country to run an inn in hopes of bring his family closer together. However, the family’s place of business is in a desolate area that doesn’t bring many travelers to its doors. Happiness quickly sours, when it is revealed that their first guest only checks in to commit suicide. Worried that this would put them out of business before they even began, dear ol’ dad convinces his family to bury the body. The problem is, every guest that arrives afterward eventually turns up dead! Mixed in, Miike ramps up the absurdity with a bizarre Claymation sequence, a “Thriller”-inspired music video, and a con-man who shows up claiming to be a secret agent and the son of Queen Elizabeth.

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Arrow has presented a version of Katakuris on Blu-ray (an identical DVD version is included) that offers a stunning presentation of the film; the colors more vivid and, all in all, a much better transfer than previous releases. As always, Arrow doesn’t skimp on the extras: there are plenty of featurettes for fans to enjoy, such as a making-of documentary, cast interviews, a kick-ass booklet with essays and insights, and the reversible sleeve with new art, which always feels like the prize in a Cracker Jack box. Whether or not The Happiness of the Katakuris is for you, one thing is certain: you will never be bored with Miike.

The Happiness of the Katakuris is now available on Blu-ray via Arrow Films and Video

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About Michele Galgana

Michele “Izzy” Galgana is a freelance writer and film festival programmer. She has curated films for the Boston Underground Film Festival, Boston Science Fiction Film Festival, All Things Horror Online screening nights, and has written for Rue Morgue and All Things Horror Online.

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