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Original Title:
Wai dor lei ah yut ho

Hong Kong 2010

Thriller, Drama

Pang Ho-Cheung

Josie Ho
Eason Chan
Derek Tsang
Norman Chu
Lawrence Chou
Michelle Ye
Tan Lap-Man
Bau Hei-Jing
Jo Koo

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Dream Home

Story: Cheng Lai-sheung (Josie Ho) has two jobs because she needs to get her hands on some money as soon as possible. That is because she has set her mind on getting a certain flat with an ocean view. For this she works without a break and doesn't even accompany her friends when they go out in the evening. Her only leasure activity is an affair with a married man (Eason Chan). When Cheng has finally the money and a prospective loan agreement from her bank to buy her flat, things go wrong. The owners of the flat suddenly want more money. The constantly rising renting costs and housing prices make Cheng's dream move beyond reach. Eventually, she enters the building where her dream home is located and kills the janitor. After that she kills the owners of an apartment and is then annoyed by the loud music of the owners of the flat above. She rings at their door as well and continues her killing spree...

Review: Pang Ho-Cheung is one of the most extraordinary filmmakers of Hong Kong and has dabbled in almost any genre already. His best film to date is the drama "Isabella", but his "Love in a Puff" was a worthwhile movie, too. Still, you never know what to expect of Pang when he shoots a new movie. If it had been any other director I certainly would have skipped this movie because just a few minutes into it one thing becomes pretty clear: "Dream Home" may have an interesting socially critical approach but in his heart it also is an extremely brutal slasher movie, which celebrates its killing sequences in long shots and doesn't leave out any details. This certainly doesn't make the film recommendable for every viewer.

The movie starts with a few text lines that inform us about how Hong Kong's housing prices have gone through the roof during the last few years while the income of the residents haven't really risen that much at all. In such a crazy world you can just survive by becoming crazy yourself it seems. According to this motto the protagonist Cheng goes on a killing spree. Between her killings the director also inserts some flashbacks which show her past and with their rather tranquil pacing introduce us to the psychological world of the woman. We get to know about her family and get a more accurate picture of why she is so obsessed with getting a certain apartment no matter the costs, even committing gruesome murder to achieve her goal.

Cheng has always been a bit strange and there were several stations that lead her into madness. Therefore, there is no sudden mental breakdown to be found here. While Josie Ho ("Exiled", "Murderer"), daughter of a multi-billion dollar casino-tycoon, can bestow more depths upon her character during the more quiet flashbacks and while we learn to understand that materialism and the constant pressure of society to be better than everyone else drove her into madness, she becomes a mere killing machine during her rampage, showing no emotions whatsoever. It is as if she laid off her personality and simply became the killer in a bad slasher movie, with the difference that she doesn't wear any mask.

This brings us to the biggest point of criticism in the movie: the killings or rather the amount of violence. There are audiences who love such gore fests, certainly I don't consider myself part of them. The victims have to look on as their guts spill out of their stomach, body parts are chopped off, eyes pop out of the head - this movie surely isn't anything for the casual viewer. Still, this would be acceptable if those scenes weren't celebrated in such an incredibly detailed fashion that during some moments you can certainly make out an extremely black deadpan humor. This kind of fun with all the excess of violence simply doesn't fit into the sociocritical drama that is running through the film's background at all times. The violence often makes "Dream Home" look outright abstruse.

In one respect Pang Ho-Cheung does an excellent job. He creates a very tense atmosphere, also owing a lot to the cinematography of Yu Yik-wai, who has already been responsible for the appealing pictures of Zhang Ke Jia's movies, and thanks to the at times claustrophobic but at any time fitting soundtrack by Gabriele Roberto. Furthermore, Josie Ho manages to give her character the necessary amount of twisted charisma. The transition between adrenaline-loaden slasher parts and the quiet flashbacks is also very well done and the sociocritical main idea behind the plot is nice as well. Sadly, slasher and drama aren't put to a whole in a satisfying manner. What remains is a strange mix and the extreme depiction of violence is actually rather harming than being useful to the overall product. But this is often the case with Pang: You don't have to like his films, sometimes he also overshoots the mark, but there is nonetheless no doubt that he is an excellent filmmaker with quite some ideas up his sleeve.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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