The Happiness of the Katakuris has to be one of the strangest films ever produced. This is a bizarre mixture of genres with animation, musical numbers, horror and comedy all colliding to create a perplexing romp of a movie.
The plot follows a family comprised of four generations who move to a remote area to run a guesthouse at the behest of the father. They intend to work together and achieve satisfaction through the family business. The guesthouse they buy is very remote, and despite the news that a new road is on the way, the family soon become nervous at the lack of guests seeking a room for the night. Tension runs high, the son is angry and wants to return to the city but as they begin to argue about it their first guest unexpectedly arrives.
Sadly the Katakuris joy is short-lived as their guest is found in the morning to be thoroughly dead having apparently committed suicide by sticking a key into his own throat. Terrified at the thought of their business being ruined by such an occurrence they decide not to contact the police and instead bury the body in the woods nearby. This sets a dangerous precedent which soon becomes a habit as more guests are found dead in strange circumstances and the family bury them too.
It is very difficult to get across how strange this film is and it has to be seen to be believed. There are a number of claymation sequences which blend with the live action. The mood of black comedy occasionally strays into gruesome horror and then there are the sudden and unexpected musical numbers delivered with accompanying dance routines and a great deal of enthusiasm.
Only one man could be responsible for such a unique film - Japanese director Miike Takashi. He shows his usual skill here, creating moments of black comedy and horror with ease. The claymation and musical bits don´t sit very easily with the promising premise though and you get the impression that Miike is having a laugh with this project.
The film is pretty slow paced but thoroughly unpredictable as the Katakuris try desperately to find some happiness. Things go from bad to worse when they learn that the new road may lead to their old guests being dug up. The manic cast are all very good and the characters are well realised, the family disputes are often played out through song and dance in hilarious fashion. The plot twists are great and the film builds to one of the most surreal endings imaginable.
This has been described as a cross between the Sound of Music and Dawn of the Dead but this is not a movie that lends itself to neat descriptions. A completely genre defying insane mess of a movie this definitely won´t be to everyone´s taste. Incredibly different and refreshing but also manic and confused this film is far from perfect but then I hate musicals, even comedy musicals with zombies still include grating song and dance routines. There are enough laughs and skilful direction to make this worth seeking out and you certainly won´t have seen anything even remotely similar to this before but it really is excessively bizarre.