Bodies under the Inn? That’s Happiness!
Considering its inspiration, The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001) is a musical comedy-horror that surprisingly embodies the spirit behind most well-known Japanese commercials.
The movie is primarily about the Katakuris, who have been a family of failures for four generations. With the recent layoff money from Masao, the father, the family decides to move into an old house at the base of Mt. Fuji –right where there used to be an old garbage dump. Not to be discouraged, they use their house as a bed and breakfast called the ‘White Lover’s Inn’ in hopes of bringing in many guests and a lot of money. This hope is slowly killed as, one by one, all of their guests die in freak accidents and, eventually, murders that the family resolves to cover-up.
Outside this premise? It’s a wild ride of surrealism that is guaranteed to either leave you in silent shock or disbelieving laughter.
To be honest, the ‘horror’ aspect is in the circumstance of serial deaths and general [if not minimal] gore. One could easily say that the movie is more of a morbid musical-comedy rather than a true horror movie. However, I do see why it’s considered part of the genre by its atmosphere and the handling of each death. Aside from the quick break of tension, via comedy, the crisis of having a horrifically failing business by sheer bad luck is pretty grim. With that context, the suspense that characterizes good horror hinges on the possibility of having those deaths found-out, never mind the consequences.
Outside the technicalities, the movie is visually diverse with mixed mediums of staging, Claymation, and graphic inserts. The Claymation is often the most eye-catching part of the movie, mostly due to the absurd situations that it conveys. This includes scenes where a demon-thing yanks out a woman’s uvula, or in which a fight scene between a con-artist and a grandfather incorporates a guitar pick and a breaking vine. To me, the transitions between this style and the live-action just enhances the experience.
As only a small fraction of the movie, these qualities only represent the utter weirdness you will encounter in The Happiness of the Katakuris. Its cheery tone and happy-go-lucky approach to dangers begs for a lot of suspension-of-disbelief. In fact, the whimsical approach to its horror may even take you out of any investment for the movie itself. For anyone who doesn’t mind it, this could be a good thing as the movie seems to also have a bit of everything –where its very nature is shaped by the touch of almost every genre.
If there was any advice I would tell my past self, before watching the movie? Don’t ask, just enjoy, and make sure the subtitles are on.
The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001) Official Trailer