DREAM HOME Review
[Plenty of coverage for this film in the archives, however, in light of IFC running it on VOD in this part of the world, I thought I would drop in my take on the film.]
Here is something different. A slow-burn, gory slasher film based on the vagaries of capitalism, in particular, the Hong Kong housing market. Writer/Director Pang Ho-Cheung has been making 'against the grain' Hong Kong genre busters for some time now. One of his previous films, the deadpan-absurdist feminist conspiracy noir, Exodus left a lot of people scratching their heads trying to find the joke. That one grows on you. It burrows. While Pang has yet to make his masterpiece (Dream Home is not quite it), he is a Chinese National Treasure for what he does. A true auteur filmmaker. And Dream Home is fits snuggly into his growing canon of 'torn from the headlines' genre-riffing.
Cheng Li-sheung (Josie Ho) is working multiple service-industry jobs (from retail to telemarketing to prostitution) with one clear goal in mind. She wants to live in a harbour facing apartment in an upscale neighborhood Hong Kong. These types of residences run at exorbitant rates and is clearly beyond her means. But the year is 2007 and really this type of consideration seemed moot for many, at that point. When a choice flat opens up at a very good price, she jumps at the opportunity. However when the deal falls through, (the owners realize that they underbid their own real-estate) Cheng decides to take matters into her own hands to drive property values down.
These are the times we live in, magnified by a factor of 1000. The slippery slope of capitalism gone wild, is somewhat akin to David Cronenberg's look at violence in the media with Videodrome. If the opening scene, a clever, and brutal use of industrial strength lock-ties, doesn't turn you off from the queasy, explicit, nonchalant execution of the film and you can look by some down-right-odd cinematography (It is often quite experimental and off-putting), then you are in for a treat. Eschewing the usual suspense and stalk antics of the slasher/giallo, Pang plays it out in a very clear-headed way. Somehow, and this is a minor miracle of sorts, he even makes you care for Cheng, even though she is clearly the villain (delightfully focused as she is.) The film is structured in flash back so as to flesh how some of her motivations, but her clear-headed sociopath evening of mayhem (the movie basically takes place over 24 hours) is well realized for its absurdity, both at the detail level, and at in the big picture.
The final joke, not unlike Exodus, is a real winner. Welcome to the horror of new-millennium capitalism folks.