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Simon Read [Film Festival 11.04.10] movie review horror

Year: 2010
Directors: Ho-Cheung Pang
Writers: Ho-Cheung Pang
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by:
Rating: 5 out of 10

[Editor's note: so begins projectcyclops' exhaustive coverage of the GrimmUpNorth Film Festival]

The premise of Dream Home is quite inspired. A woman in Hong Kong works two mind numbing jobs, one in a call centre where she has to deal with abusive recipients to cold calls and another in a high class boutique where the wealthy come to spend oodles of cash. Despite her working hours she still cannot find a decent apartment, and recalls a time when her family lived in a pleasant area long since torn down and replaced with luxury high rise blocks the likes of which she can only dream of affording. Her plan is simple, she’ll murder her way to the top. Kill the residents and the price will fall, free space will become available and she can realise her ambition of getting that ocean view. Unfortunately the inspiration ends there and the film itself is a mess of bad characterisation, ponderous sentimentality and extreme, yet pointless violence.

Cheng Li-sheung is her name, and through frequent flashbacks to her childhood we learn that her kind grandfather was a navy man, and sat by the shore to relive his days at sea. With cups and string Cheng communicates with her neighbour, a boy next door, and they witness the protests surrounding a land deal that will evict the entire area. In one of the only scenes of humour the kids decide to bypass the use of the word ‘over’ to signal the end of a message, and use the term ‘asshole’ instead. Think about that.

As an adult Cheng seems balanced on the outside, but by night she stalks the inhabitants of various apartments dressed in black ninja gear and performs revolting acts of murder, on people I guess the writer thought were worthy victims. Men in particular are seen as nothing more that boorish pigs that take mistresses, snort cocaine and play golf. Now, I’m as aware as the next guy that to be a woman in China must be pretty god-damn awful, it’s a fascist country with a contemptible human rights record and outrageous sexism, racism and homophobia, but when Cheng breaks into a pregnant woman’s flat and spends 15 minutes beating her, dragging her around and eventually killing both the unborn child and the parent-to-be, I closed my notepad and looked around me as more and more audience members got up and left.

The film continues to use flashbacks which become increasingly detailed as to which year, and at what time (!) they take place. We’ll be in 1991 for a scene and then whisked off to 1997, or 2007, or 2004, or 1994. Why, you may ask? I have no idea. It doesn’t become relevant to the story but simply bamboozles the viewer into thinking that there must be some convoluted mystery involved which never comes to light. Scenes that stick out as quite impressive include a Chinese funeral ceremony that is at least interesting from a Western perspective to watch, and a gory knife fight in a drug dealer’s apartment that seems lifted out of another film about vigilantism. The huge problem with Dream Home is simply that nobody in their right mind would seriously root for Cheng, she’s a petulant psychopath whose MO is so selfish and contemptible that far from wanting her to succeed we’re looking to punch her in the face and tell her to get real.

I dig the feminist angle, and really wanted there to be a satire in here that I could enjoy, but the depth of the film can be measured in millimetres. And seriously, she’s killing innocent people because her grandfather liked the sea? Do I buy that for a second? Unless someone here knows of some weird Chinese fixation with sailing that drives people to murder, I just can’t get on board. (badoom-boom-tish)

The direction is slick and inventive, and there was obviously some money involved in the production so I can’t fault the film on style or craft, and fans of unbelievable violence for the sake of it, you’ll get a kick out of all the various deaths and blood and guts, but for anyone who is actually a fan of well structured and satisfying movies, skip this, it’s just puerile.

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Ben Austwick (11 years ago) Reply

Wow, really pleased you're covering my home town's film festival, where I discovered Polanski, Romero and more back in the early 90s! Is the Hyde Park Picture House still as cool as it was?

I've heard some good things about this film so your review is very interesting. The shallowness you uncover certainly isn't promising, although I have to say I quite like the sound of the extreme violence :)


Dabbld (11 years ago) Reply

Although I agree with a lot that is said in the review, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. There sure are some memorable kills, damn! I'd probably give it a 7/10.

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