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Film / The Happiness of the Katakuris

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The Happiness of the Katakuris is a 2001 Japanese film directed by Takashi Miike, and is very loosely based on the South Korean film The Quiet Family. This movie blends so many different elements that it utterly defies description. It is in roughly equal parts Surreal Horror, Black Comedy, Musical, and Farce.

The Katakuri family, after a long string of failures decide to pool their remaining resources and open a guest house in the country. At first, this seems like a great idea that is finally bringing a measure of success to the family; until their guests start dropping dead. Not from mysterious or supernatural means, nor even the result of a serial killer; but for purely mundane reasons. Suicide, heart failure, and so on. All played strictly for laughs as the family attempts to hide the bodies, in order to prevent the deaths from ruining the house's reputation; because, after all, dead bodies are bad for business.

This film contains examples of:

  • Almost Dead Guy: Masao is irritated when Richard, who had fallen off a cliff, manages to stagger back to the inn before collapsing and dying for real in the front lobby.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Played for laughs. The narrator's a little girl; her mother randomly decided to run away from her father while pregnant; her uncle used to be a successful Salaryman... until the day he flipped out; and Grandpa is on death's door for most of the film.
  • Black Comedy: A series of bizarre, freakish deaths played for laughs. When they find the sumo wrestler dead in his room, having gone Out with a Bang, Terue contemplates the body and says "Looking at him like this, he seems even bigger." When it becomes obvious that they can't get his enormous body out through the hall, a comic scene has the whole family struggling to lower him out the window with a rope.
  • Blatant Lies: Much of Richard's claims to woo Shizue are this, beginning with the claim that he's a member of the British air force. Then he kicks it up a notch by claiming to be Queen Elizabeth II's illegitimate nephew.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Masao has a nightmare of finding the head of his first dead guest inside his fridge, and wakes bolting up screaming.
  • Chekhov's Volcano: About halfway through the movie, the volcano in the distance is shown belching smoke.
  • The Dead Can Dance: One of the song numbers feature the dead buried guests rising up and doing a little dance.
  • Dramatic Drop: Shizue does this when she comes in to deliver tea and finds the corpses of the sumo wrestler and his unfortunate girfriend.
  • Driven to Suicide: The family's first guest kills himself in his room.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: One of the main sources of the film's Black Comedy.
  • Fan Disservice: Yep, that's a dead naked sumo wrestler.
  • Flashback: One whole number is a flashback showing when the father first brought the family to the guesthouse, and sold them on restoring it and operating it as a business.
  • Follow the Bouncing Ball: A love song between Masao and Terue is accompanied by the lyrics popping up on the bottom of the screen, and the Japanese characters highlighting as the characters sing.
  • Foreign Remake: Of a Korean movie called The Quiet Family.
  • Gag Censor: During a musical number Shizue rolls by in a sort of giant hula hoop wheel. A heart pops up on screen over her crotch when she turns upside down and her dress flips up.
  • Gorn:
    • A guest's corpse is found in his room, having graphically committed suicide by stabbing himself with a sharpened key. This leads to a musical number where the Katakuris ask "He had a knife, why didn't he use that?!?"
    • The bit with an imp tearing out a woman's uvula is kind of gorn-ish, but it's in Claymation.
  • Gratuitous English: Played for Laughs. Richard Sagawa randomly peppers his speech with English words in an attempt to back up his dubious claims that he's a British Navy Officer.
  • Impairment Shot: A cross between this and Painting the Medium as a staticky, blinking TV camera shot is used to show a grievously injured Richard staggering back to the inn after tumbling off the cliff.
  • Jump Cut: A series of jump cuts in the scene where Shizue gives Richard her address only serves to reinforce the bizarre unrealness of the whole affair.
  • Medium Blending: Three sequences are done in Claymation; the latter half of the opening scene, Richard and Jinpei falling down a ravine and the family rescuing the guest house from the erupting volcano.
  • Mind Screw: Filled with bizarre and disturbing imagery. The opening scene has a woman discovering an imp in her soup, an imp who rips her uvula out of her throat—and that has nothing to do with the rest of the movie. A scene with a TV reporter shows a bug crawling up the reporter's nose as the reporter desperately tries to maintain his composure.
  • Moon Rabbit: The Asian variant to The Man in the Moon imagines that the face of the Moon shows a rabbit. Because this movie has to be a little bit weirder, it shows two rabbits humping. (This shot also immediately follows the scene where the sumo wrestler jumps on top of his girlfriend.)
  • Narrator: Yurie, the little girl in the family, narrates the film.
  • Nosebleed: The peculiarly Japanese "nosebleed=horny" trope, usually found in anime, happens to Richard during his big love song with Shizue.
    Richard: My nose isn't bleeding because I'm horny. The blood is rushing to enhance my critical faculties.
  • Out with a Bang: A sumo wrestler dies from a heart attack during sex; and his girlfriend, who is unfortunately trapped underneath, suffocates soon after.
  • Pastiche: Of so many things; including classic Hollywood musicals and horror films.
  • The Peeping Tom: Masayuki the creep takes a latter and climbs up to the window to peep on the sumo wrestler having sex with his girlfriend.
  • Rule of Funny: Especially if it's darkly funny.
  • Sleeping Single: What with all the other worries, like burying bodies, the fact that Masao sleeps in one twin bed and his wife sleeps in another one is probably a minor concern.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: At the very moment when the four weird ladies on a "spiritualist training trip" show up at the resort, the moon moves in front of the sun (much faster than it really does) and causes a total solar eclipse.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: The local beat cop drops off a wanted poster that shows Richard on it.
  • Writing Indentation Clue: The father does this with the notepad in the first guest's room, scribbling over the indentation with a pencil and finding...a drawing of a naked woman with her legs spread. For some reason the family looks at this and reads the word "peach".