‘Dream Home’

Dream Home posterDream Home (2010) Directed by Pang Ho-cheung. Starring Josie Ho, Norman Chu, Eason Chan, Derek Tsang, Michelle Ye, Lawrence Chou.

My disappointment in the last couple of films made me wonder if I’m burning out on horror movies. No more scares, no more thrills, and this blog would go nowhere just as it got started. But maybe I should leave the film choices to others. I visited my long time fellow fan of horror films again and he queued a handful of selections from an unspecified Internet list of the “best streaming horror on Netflix”. And with Dream Home we found a great horror film with an extreme amount of violence that doesn’t get in the way of an engaging, thoughtful story and good acting.

Cheng Lai-sheung (Josie Ho) has a lifelong dream of owning a flat in Hong Kong with a view of Victora Harbour. She works two jobs trying to raise the money for a down payment but Hong Kong is no cheap place to live, especially with the housing bubble making it increasingly difficult to earn the required amount. What’s a desperate potential home buyer to do but turn to murder to get the dream home she’s always wanted?

It might sound like a ridiculous premise but it works. The global financial crisis has inspired several films but this is the first one I’m aware of that’s a horror movie. If you’ve never considered the state of housing in Hong Kong, Dream Home gives you a big, fat, bloody taste of it. Consider: over seven million people are crammed into just over a four hundred square mile area. If you can’t picture how big that is, compare it to Rhode Island, which is just over twelve hundred square miles. Or Colorado, which is just over 100,000 square miles. Welcome to one of the most expensive real estate sectors of the world.

The opening credit sequence of Dream Home drives this home, no pun intended, with a number of devastatingly beautiful shots of housing units, building after towering building, each holding hundreds upon hundreds of flats or condos or apartments or whatever. These aren’t loving views of the verdant Hong Kong hills or colorful, dazzling city lights. These are layers upon layers of people’s lives with little or no room to grow. Lives like Cheng, our home buyer driven to murder.

Josie Ho is fantastic as Cheng, the central focus of Dream Home. She doesn’t play your typical invincible, crazed killer. She’s not reluctant to kill nor is she disturbed by the murders she carries out, but she takes no glee in it either. She’s cold and calculated as she slaughters but she’s still vulnerable and the film succeeds in making us feel for her when she loses the upper hand, in spite of the horrible things she’s done. I thought it was also interesting to note that Josie Ho is the daughter of Hong Kong billionaire, Stanley Ho. A bit ironic, eh?

The violence in Dream Home is quite graphic; again, this is not for the “less is more” crowd. Otherwise settle in for some creative and, at times, humorous kills. I was particularly amused when one of the characters loses a couple of fingers in a way that cleverly reflects his earlier actions. But the brutality is not wall-to-wall like we experienced with Inside. Here we’re grateful to be given a chance to breathe and watch the story expand.

As the film takes time to explore Cheng’s life and motivations, we’re bounced through time, jumping from her current killing spree to her childhood and then back again and on through other events that have steered her in this bloody direction. These scenes are handled with equal care and skill as she utilizes the death of her father and an affair with a married man to her advantage. It’s a fascinating exercise in editing that requires a bit of attention.

If you can stomach the violence, Dream Home is worth a watch. And, hey, it’s educational too! So sit back and learn about how tough it is to find a home in Hong Kong while watching some dude’s guts spill across the floor.

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