Director – Ho-Cheung Pang
Cast – Josie Ho, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Eason Chan, Michelle Ye, Norman Chu, Hee Ching Paw, Kwok Cheung Tsang, Lawrence Chou, Lap-Man Sin, Juno Mak
Release Year – 2010
Reviewed by John of the Dead
It has been too long of a while since I last reviewed an Asian film, especially one from Hong Kong. Dream Home is a film I had the opportunity to view, and its unique plot is the biggest reason that I went through in giving this flick a watch. This well-told tale of a woman suffering decades of guilt was a fresh breath in the realm of Asian horror, and delivered a memorable watch that I am glad came across my way.
Ever since childhood Cheng Li-sheung has dreamed of giving her loving grandfather and younger brother a flat/home they will find comfort in, one that includes a windowed room facing the sea so that her grandfather can spend his last years on Earth gazing at the sea that he misses so badly. Cheng Li-sheung has managed to save enough money from her two part-time jobs to purchase the perfect flat for her and her family, but the owners of the flat decide to raise the asking price at the last second, leaving Cheng Li-sheung heartbroken, but not defeated. If she cannot have the flat then nobody else will, and Li-sheung does the only thing she can do to keep the flat available to her until she can raise more money…she kills each new occupant of the home.
I really had no prior knowledge of this film going into the watch aside from what the overall plot would contain. I enjoyed the idea of a woman suffering immense hardships throughout her life so that she can afford the one thing she has always wanted, and then snapping (mentally) when the opportunity she has waited decades for is suddenly pulled from under her. So what does this shy and quiet girl do about it? She doesn’t take it lying down, and I loved that.
We get a fair amount of action and character development in this film, and I commend writer/director Ho-cheung Pang for making sure to take care of his characters story-wise and not just with what he shows with his direction, a mistake I often see. Spliced with the current bloody events are the events of Cheng Li-sheung’s childhood that lead her to make the decisions she is making, and shows just how desperately she wanted this “perfect” flat, and explains the depravity she exhibits as she brutally hacks up anyone who moves into her beloved “home”. Coupled with this is her relationship with a married man who uses her to his bidding, who shows her (inadvertently) that despite the fact that she can stealth fully kill multiple people at once, her worth to the world is low and the only non-family member that remotely cares for her is a man who does not care for her. I especially loved Cheng Li-sheung during the kill sequences, which were well written and complimented the film’s direction. Ms. Cheng is by no means a true killer, and it shows with how she is constantly fumbling her opportunities to deliver the kill and ultimately makes things worse for herself. The fact that the film takes place in an apartment complex also added a unique take to the often-clichéd slasher sub-genre. This worked very well given we usually get slasher that stalk wooded campgrounds or large spooky houses, never small apartments.
Ho-cheung Pang does a fine job with the film’s direction, and he manages to deliver a positive Asian female slasher film. I bet you haven’t seen to many films that involve the words “Asian”, “Female” and “Slasher” all in one, and that is what makes this film so unique. From the get-go he sells the film with beautiful cinematography and great sets, which added a claustrophobic feel at times at just the right moment thanks to the kill scenes taking place in the small apartment. This not only added a nice twist to the usual slasher elements, but Mr. Pang managed to keep the tension high and deliver some insane kill sequences that took much longer than expected…and in a good way. With such a small space to work with you would assume that the kills sequences would be fairly short given there are no places for the victim to hide or run to, but each kill scene is played out nicely in a very satisfying fashion. The kills were awesome to watch, and no one is spared. There are some characters thrown into the mix that had nothing to do with Ms. Cheng’s problems at first, but when they got involved they sealed their doom, and in gruesome ways. We get some pretty creative kills to marvel at, including one that I had never before seen…involving a storage bag and a vacuum cleaner. Mr. Pang delivers lots of live-action gore as well, although in some instances he settled for CGI gore, but I imagine from the kills that those scenes just simply were too hard or costly to film with live-action effects, so I can forgive the CGI usage. He gets good performances from everyone involved, although Cheng Li-cheung is definitely the focal point of the film, and consumes about 90% of the film’s runtime, which came in at a very positive 96 minutes. Time and time again I have had to knock on an Asian horror film because it hit’s the 120 minute mark with only 90 minutes of material and delivers unneeded nonsense. Well that is not the case with Dream Home, and the film paces very well thanks to good direction and a tight screenplay.
Overall, this is a positive Asian female slasher film that gives us several elements that we do not normally get with such films in the slasher sub-genre. The kills are great and we are witness to a truly diabolical killer with a past that some of us can surely relate to. If you are looking for an Asian horror film that does not center on stupid ghosts with long black hair or want a unique slasher film then this comes recommended from me.