Editor’s Notes: Beyond the Reach and The Happiness of the Katakuris are all out on their respective formats June 16th.
Beyond the Reach
Beyond the Reach (Lionsgate) stars Michael Douglas as cocky financier Horton Madec, who spends his spare time big-game hunting. He hires local guide Ben (Jeremy Irvine, War Horse) to take him into the Mojave Desert in search of bighorn sheep. Though Ben initially puts up with Madec’s condescending remarks and arrogance, things turn bad when Madec accidentally shoots and kills an elderly prospector he mistakes for game. Thinking of the cost of this incident to his reputation and a pending multi-billion-dollar deal with Chinese investors, Madec tries to convince Ben to keep quiet about the shooting incident, but Ben’s basic decency complicates matters.
Michael Douglas is an easy fit as a wealthy man who walks the earth with a sense of entitlement and superiority to those around him. The world is his playroom, and his money can buy him anything. With the rest of civilization removed, he resorts to desperate means to get what he wants. The conflict of wills in the desert is a classic, uncluttered example of good vs. evil.
The Blu-ray edition contains 2 behind-the-scenes featurettes and audio commentary with actor/producer Michael Douglas and director Jean-Baptiste Leonetti.
The Happiness of the Katakuris
The Happiness of the Katakuris (Arrow Video), a remake of a South Korean black comedy about family dysfunction and the elimination of corpses, is probably the strangest movie ever to come out of Japan. The Katakuri family buys land in the shadow of a nearby volcano and opens an inn, banking on the fact that when a new road is built that will pass right by the inn, the family will become rich from all the tourist trade. But there appears to be a jinx on the inn. Every time a guest checks in, he winds up dead. To avoid unwanted controversy, the family decides to bury the bodies.
Stylistically, The Happiness of the Katakuris is a bizarre combination of The Sound of Music, The Walking Dead and Little House on the Prairie. Between burying dead guests, the family members frequently break out into joyful song, espousing family togetherness. The musical numbers owe much to big-budget musicals of the 1960s, but are painfully overwrought and come across as the products of mass psychosis.
The movie is certainly captivating, with claymation sequences serving as bookends. These range from a demonic creature jumping down a girl’s throat and ripping out her uvula to a literal cliffhanger of two men hanging on a fraying rope from a steep cliff. The claymation adds to the movie’s super oddness. It unfolds like a dream/nightmare, jumping from one style to another, changing tone dramatically from gruesome to light and airy, and featuring disturbing, often bloody images.
Bonus features on the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include audio commentary by director Takashi Miike, making-of featurette, a look at the film’s stop motion effects, cast member interviews, and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork.
For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.