Dream Home (2011 - USA)
Directed by Ho-Cheung Pang
I take pride in watching Category III Hong Kong flicks. I loved the Anthony Wong driven The Ebola Syndrome and Dr. Lamb, video nasties that were fucked up beyond recognition. So it's been a while since I've seen a Cat 3 HK flick but having seen Dream Home litter a few best of 2011 lists, I knew I had to seek this beauty out.
And what did it do? It slaughtered a few of the other flicks from my 10 story top 10 list and moved right into the building (see what I did there?) Dream Home is an uber slasher exploitation film that not only will make inner gorehounds FAP but make the intellectual cinephile think and FAP as well. Rarely does a Cat 3 make you think. Usually you think you're gonna watch some vicious kills and see some boobies. But with a stellar performance by Josie Ho and director Ho-Cheung Pang satirizing the desire for the have nots to have at any costs, it's a tour de kill slasher film of 2011.
Dream Home does suffer with issues with realism, the kills are somewhat comic bookey and there is a serious issue with the use of flashbacks that may confuse some viewers. A subplot of affairs and pacing issues also hurts the film a bit as does the super strength of our uber killer. But all that aside, Cat 3 HK flicks have always had a bit of slapstick and oddness about them that makes them mesmerizing to watch.
Dream Home is my dream movie. Fuck yeah.
Cheng Li-sheung is a young, upwardly mobile professional finally ready to invest in her first home. But when the deal falls through, she is forced to keep her dream alive - even if it means keeping her would-be neighbors dead.
Let's break this down movie down by different sections of an apartment building.
Cheing Lai (Josie Ho) works as a telemarketer for a bank around 2007. She's a regular office drone leading a typical life (working 2 other jobs, taking care of her father and brother, being a mistress and whoring it...you know typical shit). However, she has a dream. She wants to live in an apartment looking over the ocean bay of Hong Kong. Despite her lack of funds to buy this apartment she is willing to do anything to make her dream come true.
It's not everyday a movie opens with some suffocation via plastic bag and plastic handcuff restraints. With Dream Home, you get sucked in and the movie starts to establish a pattern of Cheing Lai going to slasher school while we also get flashbacks of her life as a child which establish her motivations for what happens in the present.
The Living Room
Soon we start seeing our girl in action as she slaughters her would be neighbors all in one night. The odd part of this is I usually root for the slasher and was kinda mystified by my lack of cheering as it seems silly to kill your potential neighbors to bring the price down of an apartment. But the slaughter is magnificio! Our first kill scenes revolve around a pregnant woman who is brilliantly suffocated via suction (you gotta see this shit...fuckin crazy...see below)
....and the old reliable ocular trauma makes a cameo. But as the movie went on, Cheing Lai showed she was vulnerable, getting wounded in the midst of her battles and though we shouldn't empathize with a cold blooded killer, I was hoping she'd be OK.
Maybe it's because she's a woman but oh have Cat 3 flicks changed. Cheing Lai rivals Anthony Wong's throne of being the hardcore of hardcore slashers.
I mentioned previously the movie employs ill timed flashbacks. First with Cheing Lai as a little girl whose family has to deal with being forcibly removed from their apartment by Triads working for greedy developers. Later she sees the plight of her family and the tole of her dad being sick and not being covered by health insurance.
The flashbacks show up without any notice and sometimes I got lost in where I was. Early on years were subtitled in but it's a bit confusing as one can't tell where we are with the story. I'll say the flashbacks do give you a glimpse of our slashereta's motivations of why this apartment by the sea is so important. Sure it's not justification to kill people but for a crazy insano like Cheing Lai, I guess it is.
Ahh the bedroom, because that's where the good action all takes place. Cheing Lai's best kills when she home invades a group of Chinese hipsters, whores and drug dealer. The movie climaxes in the kill scenes here with a variety of creative kills ranging from intestine spillage, toilet trauma, glass beaker neck stabbings and wood to mouth Fangoria approved slaughter. And some J. Bobbitt. Because's what's a slasher movie without a penis trauma right?
It's a testament to non CGI-ness of it all. Cheing Lai also gets some luck to get out of the mess she's been in as the cops want to bust in and stop the madness. It's this ridiculousness that makes Dream Home a little fantastic. Can a dude still smoke a joint while his intestines are all over the floor? Dream Home says yes.
With all this fuckin awesome slaughter, the movie poses a few ideas about why our mistress of slasher-dom does what she does. The movie satirizes what one is willing to do to buy her own home which in turns plays out the notion of how the housing crisis evolved. Sure Cheing Lai goes the fuckin beserk route to get the price down by the real estate agent by murdering a bunch of people in the building but in retrospect the working class, even the poor are willing to do what it takes to own their own home thus taking those shady deals from the Fannie Mays and other home brokerage companies. Should they have known better? Of course. But somebody should have told them it was wrong. These companies didn't.
As the flashbacks indicate, the HK government seemed to conspire with the mob and real estate developers to remove poor people from their homes in order to replace them with luxury high rises. It seems we can then conclude that the movie was implying that the working class wanted what was originally theirs. Cheing Lai is the embodiment of that.
The movie ends in irony and it's pretty obvious that nobody will live happily ever after. But what Dream Home establishes is a why in the midst of the chaos. The slasher genocides these people for her own selfish reasons but in a way the movie wants us to ignore that she's killed innocent people and empathize with her working class background.
Dream Home is intelligently designed to be an effective satire and an uber bloody and gory slasher which is to say, not an easy thing to do. Ho drives the movie, her performance yings to a woman who has lived harshly than yangs to her being a vicious, cold blooded motherfuckin killer.
I have not seen a HK Cat 3 movie that's left an impact this much like Dream Home. I think I've grown as a horror fan in that I'm not easily glamoured by wicked gore or spectacular splatter anymore. I expect my wickedly gory and spectacular splatter slasher flicks to say something about the world I live in.
Dream Home does just that.
Whores show boobies
Simulated sex and BJs
I love Cat 3 nudity!
See my descriptions above
So much awesomeness and creative kills, it should go into the Hall of Fame
The whore gets floor boarded
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
Dream Home came out in Hong Kong in 2010 but was released in NA and EU in 2011. It's available on DVD via IFC Midnight. Rarely does one see a Cat 3 film and say that it's thought provoking. Usually I go and say that shit was hilariously fucked up. I can proudly say that it's both!
Check out the trailer.