A young woman takes the problem of Hong Kong’s corrupt property developers and sky-rocketing rents into her own hands in this vicious black comedy.
In a series of rather mawkish flashbacks seen through the eyes of a child, the working-class, long-time residents of Hong Kong’s harbour-side apartment blocks are driven out of their homes by triad gangs working on behalf of ruthless developers after the 1997 handover. Twenty years later, these same locations are now far out of the reach of ordinary Hong Kongers and instead house adulterous, golf-playing yuppies, nihilistic, hedonistic teenagers and other caricatures of modern, moneyed China.
Enter Cheng Lai-sheung (played by rising megastar Josie Ho), a hard-working former inhabitant of a harbour-side block, who dreams of looking out over the same view that she grew up with. To live her dream, she becomes as cold-blooded as the water snake placed through her best friend’s door when she was a child, hacking and slashing her way through the new block’s inhabitants until the asking price on her future home finally takes a tumble.
It’s an engaging premise and in a manner that should be familiar to anyone well-versed in contemporary Hong Kong or South Korean genre cinema, Dream Home lurches from moments of blood-curdling tweeness to some outrageously gory and sadistic set-pieces that steer the film and Josie Ho’s character into the deeper waters of refreshing moral ambiguity - or is that total insanity?
Whether Dream Home is a slasher film with a strong vein of socio-economic commentary running through its core, or a political satire with a slasher film trying to hack its way out from the inside is ultimately hard to decide. I’d also wonder if there are deeper levels of Hong Kong references and in-jokes that will be lost on Western audiences. Even without such inside knowledge, however, this is an undeniably enjoyable, if at times emotionally unstable, film, which reminds us that however imbalanced the housing situation over here, it can always be a lot worse.
Don’t be surprised to see a heavily toned-down US remake, perhaps starring Kristen Stewart, looming, like a shiny new Hong Kong skyscraper, just over the horizon.
Watch a clip from Dream Home: