The Happiness of the Katakuris

(Miike Takashi, Japan, 2001)


Japanese director Miike Takashi is a cult filmmaker for our time. His work since 1995 has been fast, cheap and frequently out of control. He is wildly celebrated by his fans – to the point of being overrated – for his excessively violent horror-thrillers Audition (1999), Visitor Q (2001) and Ichi the Killer (2001).

Miike takes a welcome break from his usual gruesome fare with The Happiness of the Katakuris, a camp, musical comedy hoot made within a week, but on 35 millimetre, starring Sawada Kenji and Matsuzaka Keiko. Coming on like an outrageously extreme episode of The Simpsons or South Park (it even includes a little animation), the film milks its rough and ready humour from the premise of a happy-smiley family relocating to a country estate and trying to run it as a guest house. As maintenance of this new life tumbles out of control, the rising rate of murders and apparitions of the undead do nothing to halt the flow of songs, dances and sickeningly pastel imagery.

Like an Austin Powers (1997, 1999, 2002) movie but made for a fraction of the cost, it throws in a bit of everything (scatological jokes, movie pastiches, satire of national manners) and whips up a ramshackle, infectious energy. And am I the only video buff in the world who suspects that Miike may have gathered a little inspiration from a roughly similar American Z-grade farce from 1985 called The Outdoorsters (aka When Nature Calls)? Whatever the source for this delirium, it will have you humming the finale as you exit.

© Adrian Martin September 2002

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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