Dream Home (2010)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2011-09-26
Summary: Don't answer the phone!
“Dream Home” is a terrific slasher flick. It is full of inventive and horrible ways to kill people and allows us to (or insists that we) watch them suffer as they die. It showcases Josie Ho Chiu-Yee a terrific actress; she creates an over the top but still credible character in Sheung whose taste for slaughter is undiminished by the pile of corpses at the end of the movie. On one level it works well as a commentary on how the Hong Kong property market turns people into monsters as more buyers compete for fewer prime flats and the competition strips away their already thin veneer of civilized behavior. Edmond Pang Ho-Cheung undermines any more profound message by showing us just how ordinary Sheung’s experiences have been. As a child she was one of many thousand uprooted from their homes by rapacious developers and the triad thugs they employed. While this was the beginning of her obsession with finding the perfect apartment and responding to that obsession by becoming a remorseless killing machine, most of those who went through the same situations continued to live lives of quiet desperation—or at least, if we are to accept the movies as a reflection of reality, they didn’t become crazed killers.

We meet Sheung for the first time at work. She is one of hundreds in cubicles pitching loans from the Jet Bank to people who either don't need them or can't afford them. She has to keep smiling and calling, dialing for dollars to finance her dream. Her co-workers are presented as typical Hong Kong office drones. Their idea of a fun weekend is cheap hotel rooms with cheaper liquor and staying hammered for the entire time. They are amoral, coming up with a plan to sell the names of those who want loans but can’t pass the credit check to a mob-connected loan shark. Sheung spends time with them at work and on breaks but with two part-time jobs in addition to her work for the bank and a dying father at home she never is part of their social circle. She has a married lover, played to loutish perfection by Eason Chang, who arrives late at the love hotel room she booked and paid for and leaves to go home to his wife and child while she is still asleep.

Most of “Dream Home” takes place late in the evening of October 30, 2007—digital time and date stamps keep us informed as the slaughter progresses—with flashbacks to Sheung’s childhood, her adolescence, her mother’s death and most recently, the soon to be fatal illness of her father. While the murders are justified or necessary only in the depths of Sheung’s derangement the first is particularly gratuitous: she kills a security guard who is fast asleep in front of the closed circuit monitors he should be monitoring. A quick glance after opening the door to the security office would have been enough to get her past him and into the elevator to the eighth floor where her “real” victims await. A Filipino maid, hard at work at 11:00 PM while her employer lounges in bed complaining on a phone call to a friend about her husband, is the next victim, another case of incidental murder.

The action gets absurd as Sheung heads for the door of the bedroom to kill the owner of the flat. Just as she reaches for the doorknob her phone buzzes and since the call is from her lover she answers it, pacing outside the door while he tells her to get a room, sneak in some bottles to avoid the corkage charge, bring a cake and get there by midnight. And it seems as if she plans to do all of that after up the errand she is on. Pang Ho-Cheung may be using this to heighten our realization of just how crazy Sheung is—as well as making a comment on wireless phone etiquette: let your calls go to voice mail when stalking someone you wish to kill.

This victim is played by Michelle Ye Xuan and we see her horrifying death in exquisite detail—she is heavily pregnant and fights for her life and the life of her unborn child—in real movie time and then again in a detailed flashback. Pang lingers over it in a shot from directly above that reveals the fear and pain of the victim. The rest of the killings are done in the approved Grand Guignol fashion with mortally wounded people coming back to life, some severed limbs and an unmistakable reference to “The Story of Ricky”.

Old Hollywood moguls Jack Warner and Samuel Goldwyn are both credited with originating “If you want to send a message call Western Union’, which means that it wasn’t original with either of them. But it is still good advice to filmmakers “Dream Home” doesn’t work as an indictment of the insane property market in Hong Kong and the gangster capitalists who control and profit from it (assuming that was at least part of Pang’s intention) because only one person in the movie turned into a cold-eyed killer because of it. More universally applicable would be an army of Romero type zombies made of those who committed suicide due to their losses in the housing market, a vengeful undead seeking the blood of those ultimately responsible for what happened to them. But that would be a different movie.