The Happiness of the Katakuris: The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Screaming (2001)

Posted: April 7, 2012 in Comedy, Foreign, Horror, Musical

After hearing about a new road being built in the countryside near Mt. Fuji, Masao Katakuri moves his entire family to create a family-operated bed and breakfast. Though excited about the venture, the family has started to become complacent due to the lack of visitors. One day during a storm, a soft-spoken man appears and becomes their first guest. Though very strange, the family is just glad to have someone staying with them. Then next morning, the family goes up to the room to find that the man has committed suicide using the room key. Rather than involve the police, they take the body and bury it over by the lake. Though Masao frets about their disposal of the body, he is blessed with their first celebrity and his girlfriend wanting to get away. Shizue brings the couple tea the next morning and finds their next two guests dead as well. The family continues to press on, but the body count has them worried that the police are going to catch them at some point. Shizue’s love interest, Richado, arrives and brings with him a whole host of new issues.

Starring: Kenji Sawada (Masao Katakuri), Keiko Matsuzaka (Terue Katakuri), Shinji Takeda (Masayuki Katakuri), Naomi Nishida (Shizue Katakuri), Kiyoshiro Imawano (Richado Sagawa), Tetsuro Tanba (Ojisan Jinpei Katakuri), Naoto Takenaka (TV Reporter/Singer), Tamaki Miyazaki (Yurie Katakuri), Takashi Matsuzaki (Utanomi)

The Katakuri family is made of a number of interesting personalities. Masao is played by the eccentric Kenji Sawada. As the lead, he is central to the film’s emotional storyline and comedic elements. His wife, Terue, is played by Keiko Matsuzaka, who has more of a controlled personality. Her character appears to be more wise and collected in her reactions to the story’s significant events. Their son, Masayuki, has more of a lazy, abhorrent way of life, as portrayed by Shinji Takeda. His sister, Shizue, is a little dramatic, but Naomi Nishida makes this character fun and exciting with the extremes of her personality. Tetsuro Tamba plays grandfather Ojisan Jinpei and has a very protective nature, particularly when interacting with Nishida’s character. Tamaki Miyazaki is rather adorable and seems to be able to perform well during the musical numbers. Kiyoshiro Imawano serves as the deceptive Richado Sagawa and quickly makes the viewer despise him after the musical number.

  

Takashi Miike highlights his cult movie director in this odd form of a musical. The story takes a fairly odd family and highlights what decisions they may make to save their collective dream. Everyone except for Masayuki seems to be on-board with the goal, but they press on anyway. With no real explanation for the bad luck of their location, they have several guests turn up dead the morning after they check-in to the guest house. The first one commits suicide, the second pair die after sex and the final one turns up being Richado, who winds up in a struggle with Jinpei over his intentions with Shizue. The police end up sniffing around the house, but they have no suspicions that the Katakuri family is involved in any devious behaviors. Besides the oddness of the guests that stay with them, several of the travelers seem to end up at the guest house due to the weather and natural elements.

  

Miike’s interpretation of the screenplay is quite odd to say the least. The film actually starts out with a restaurant scene that has nothing to do with the rest of the story, involving a little, white demon falling in love with the uvula of a patron and then getting eaten by a crow. This introduces a claymation style that is reminiscent of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, including its oddity. The storyline itself is somewhat entertaining as the family struggles with the never-explained bad luck of their bed and breakfast and the rising body count due to the strange happenings in the guest house. The musical numbers as rather interesting as an enhancement to the story. While some of them are rather direct (such as Shizue and Richado’s love song), others are entertaining but somewhat unexplainable (like the combination of the Katakuri family and zombies). Miike uses the claymation style a few additional times, but particularly near the end to help display the film’s ending.

While a rather odd film, its combination of horror, suspense and music makes this at least entertaining to check out at least once, though the opening scene and the bad luck of the guest house are never explained and neither is the film’s conclusion.

Dan’s Rating: 2.5/5

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