dream home | ho-cheung pang | derek tsang | chi-man wan | josie ho | ching wong | helen to | slasher | crime | drama | hong kong | man jan san | cindy yu | lai-ling chan | eason chan | chow fei kin | michelle ye | jo kuk | dewi ariyantl | vivian leung | chung-man pow
Film: Dream Home (Wai dor lei ah yat ho)
Director: Ho-Cheung Pang
Writer: Ho-Cheung Pang, Derek Tsang and Chi-Man Wan
Starring: Josie Ho, Ching Wong and Helen To
This was a film I actually remember on the shelves when I worked at Family Video. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t realize it was a horror film, until Duncan over at The Podcast Under the Stairs picked it for the movie club. When he said that it was one of the more popular Asian horror films, I was definitely intrigued to check it out. The synopsis is Cheng Lai Sheung (Josie Ho) is a young, upwardly mobile professional finally ready to invest in her first home. When the deal falls through, she is forced to keep her dream alive by any means necessary.
We start this off and it really sets the tone. It gives us facts about Hong Kong, how little increases in salary do not match how high the housing prices have gone. This is interesting as it is mimicking what was happening with the United States housing market of the time. We then see a security guard (Ching Wong) and we are given the date and time, which from my memory was 2004. The guard is asleep and someone comes up behind him, putting a zip cord around his neck. This wakes him up and he struggles to breath. We get a pretty horrific scene of him trying to get this from around his neck with a box cutter. We then get to meet the person that did it.
Cheng works as a telemarketer for a bank that is trying to get people to sign up for a loan. When listening to her spiel, is not a good deal and they’re just trying sucker gullible people in. Her life isn’t going as planned as she has to rent a room in a ‘Love Motel’ to meet with her boyfriend, Siu To (Eason Chan). We soon learn though that he’s married.
The movie then shifts between the present and with events that is leading Cheng down this path. She attacks other flats in a building in some violent ways, which this includes a pregnant woman as well as some guys who are into drugs.
As the synopsis states though, there’s a few different things holding her back from getting what she has always wanted, her own flat with a view of the harbor. She won’t be stopped by her family or the owners of the flat that she now has her heart set on. The money won’t be a factor either in getting what she wants.
Now I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit confused as to where this was going, because how it is presented is not linear. I don’t mean to gush and to give away my stance, but I ended up really liking this film. That is in due part to the social commentary that we have going on here, but seeing the full picture is another big reason as well. It does help giving this a second viewing and knowing what to expect.
What I really like here is that this is taking place in Hong Kong, but it is also telling a tale that is very American. I didn’t necessarily catch up until the reveal at the end, but this is taking place right before the housing bubble in the US burst. This is important, because it had effects on the world market, which is how it plays into this movie. I didn’t really catch the time these events are taking place until it clicked with that reveal and that’s when I realized how good of writing this movie has.
The back-story to here is so rich as well though. Cheng growing up is what makes her develop this dream of wanting a specific type of flat. Her grandfather loved the water, so she wanted to get one that looked over the harbor since that is where he spent a lot of time while she was growing up. We get a scene of her as a child where she is fighting with her brother. She wants her own room and her father tells her one day she can buy a flat where she will have her own room. These are all factors into this dream that she has.
Now you might be wondering why she goes on this murderous rampage which is what I was doing while watching this. As it goes on, we see that she is getting more and more frustrated. She is the side piece to her boyfriend and the place she wants is out of her price range to just name a couple of factors. When I finally realized though the reason she is killing these people, I immediately was on board with everything that we saw. It doesn’t make it right, but I understand it. Coupling that with the warnings to her of the social commentary on the housing market, you have me sold.
I want to shift to the pacing and editing here. The film has a good length of 96 minutes, which I think is a perfect running time. It really doesn’t waste any time with the cold open and I like now that I know the overall product how they shift from showing us what Cheng is doing with the reasons that she is. This is an interesting way of presenting it as we think she is insane and that doesn’t necessarily go away, but as she continues on this rampage, we start to feel for her more and more as it goes on. The ending though is just icing on the cake for what was given for me.
This couldn’t be nearly as good though without good acting. I thought that Ho was quite attractive, but I thought her performance was perfect. She has such a good character arch here. She appears demented at first, but the more you get to learn about her, the more you realize that it was really her being pushed into the things that she did. Now it’s not normal, don’t get me wrong there. What I identified with was that if you push someone far enough and with how her upbringing and life were at that moment, I can’t blame her. I thought the rest of the performances were solid and did well in support of Cheng.
Something that really impressed me here was the effects. From what I could tell, a majority of them were done practically. I’m not going to lie, some of them made me cringe. The opening death of the security guard, it looked so real and I like that the movie set the tone for some pretty messed up things that early on. Now there was some CGI that was used in certain cases when practical couldn’t be used, but I actually thought they did well with that. It is used in a way that it enhances, but going even farther, they did hide some of that so you can focus and critique it, which is the way to go. There were a few effects that I noticed this second time around that didn’t necessarily hold up for me. I did love how this was shot though. The tall buildings look surreal which I think was a good choice. It makes them feel more mythic since Cheng is struggling with her dream to get into one of them. It is a bit disorienting as well, which also worked.
Now with that said, this film I ended up really digging and kind of upset that I didn’t take a chance on it back in the day. I’m not sure that I would have liked it as much as I do now, as I had to refine my tastes as I think there would have been part of me that would have not appreciated the social commentary this movie is conveying. Then again I could appreciate the good running time and maybe the interesting way of editing the events together in the way it is presented. Ho’s performance as Cheng is on point and I like the rest of the cast as aspects to push her into what she did. The effects, both practical and CGI, looked solid and made me cringe. I also thought the wildness of the deaths set a tone as well. There’s some great cinematographer that is both beautiful and disorienting in presenting Cheng’s point of view of where she wants to go. The soundtrack didn’t necessarily stand out, but it fit for what was needed. I had a lot of fun with this film. Overall I’d say this is good movie and would recommend checking it out if you like a non-traditional slasher. I will warn you, this is from Hong Kong and I had to watch it with subtitles. If that’s an issue, then avoid this. I would warn you that you are really missing out on a good movie if you do.
My Rating: 9 out of 10