Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Just in time for The Family, starring Robert De Niro as a mobster who enters the Witness Protection Program with his wife and kids, we’re recommending five tales of crime and kinship.
The Happiness Of The Katakuris (2001)
Few familial units have ever been quite as demented as the one at the center of Takashi Miike’s The Happiness Of The Katakuris, a truly bonkers tale of a clan compelled to bury multiple bodies near their remote hotel because, for one insane reason after another, everyone who visits their establishment winds up dying. No stranger to weirdness, this 2001 effort by Japanese provocateur Miike (Audition, Ichi The Killer) is part comedy, part musical, and all madness, as is apparent from the opening clay animation scene of a pint-sized winged creature eating a human woman’s uvula, then being eaten by a crow, which then lays an egg that gives birth to an identical creature, which is then eaten by another crow. That bizarre portrait of the circle of life proves a fitting intro for the ensuing tale, in which patriarch Kenji Sawada’s desire to bring his family together by having them all live and work at his new mountainside inn is undone when his customers keep turning up as corpses.
Miike’s staging of these fatalities—which include a man committing suicide with a room key, and a sumo wrestler suffering a heart attack during sexual climax, which causes him to also crush his schoolgirl lover beneath him—is lively and demented and made even crazier because his characters repeatedly burst into overcooked pop song-and-dance routines. Those numbers eventually feature reanimated corpses, which would be more unsettling if such lunacy wasn’t immediately followed by a clay-animated sequence in which a nearby volcano explodes and, in order to save the family dog—who’s surfing the flowing lava on a log—Sawada hangs upside-down from a branch to snatch it to safety. Beneath its outrageous exterior, The Happiness Of The Katakuris is a sweet story about the triumphant power of familial togetherness and perseverance. Yet, any deeper meanings are truly beside the point, since even when taken at freaky face value, Miike’s film is a gonzo blast.
Availability: The Happiness Of The Katakuris is available on DVD, which can be obtained through Netflix.