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Dream Home
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Dream Home

Josie Ho has some explaining to do in Dream Home.

Chinese: 維多利亞壹號  
Year: 2010  
Director: Pang Ho-Cheung
Producer: Pang Ho-Cheung, Subi Liang, Josie Ho Chiu-Yi, Conroy Chan Chi-Chung
Writer: Pang Ho-Cheung, Derek Tsang Kwok-Cheung, Jimmy Wan Chi-Man
Cast: Josie Ho Chiu-Yi, Eason Chan Yik-Shun, Bau Hei-Jing, Norman Tsui Siu-Keung, Derek Tsang Kwok-Cheung, Lawrence Chou Chun-Wai, Michelle Ye,Sin Lap-Man, Lo Hoi-Pang, Jo Koo, Lam Yiu-Sing, Phat Chan, Wong Ching, Dewi Ariyanti, Song Xiaocheng, Zhou Chuchu, Felix Lok Ying-Kwan, Juno Mak Chun-Lung, Nelson Yu Lik-Wai
The Skinny:

Yay, Pang Ho-Cheung does a slasher! It's also infused with social issues, making Dream Home a mismatched genre experiment or the dryest, darkest comedy ever made. It's hard to take completely seriously - and it's absolutely, positively not for everyone - but Pang's fans should have a good time.

by Kozo:
Dream Home is gory and gratuitous, and yet it aspires to do more. Pang Ho-Cheung’s long-awaited film is an oddly-conceived beast – an extreme thriller that mixes social commentary with the sort of splatter experience that genre fans lust after. The mixture isn’t totally effective; the film possesses a thoughtful, time-shifting structure that makes its violence more contemplative and less cathartic than one expects of a slasher film. Still, Dream Home is the work of an undeniably strong filmmaker, and an understanding of Pang Ho-Cheung goes a long way in aiding appreciation. And if the viewer has neither the time nor inclination to care about the things that Pang cares about? They get a sledge hammer, sweaty sex, spilled entrails, and some snipped-off body parts. Pang Ho-Cheung makes sure that there’s something here for everyone. Except probably grandma.

Josie Ho produces and stars as Sheung, a wannabe homeowner who embarks on an impressive killing spree. We first meet her in 2007 when she offs her first victim, a security guard (Wong Ching) at high rise housing estate No. 1 Victoria Bay. Cue title card then flashbacks, where we’re given glimpses of Sheung at different times in her life. Sometimes it’s a few months back, sometimes it’s her childhood, but the flashbacks spell out who she is and where she comes from, sometimes affectionately and sometimes depressingly. Despite some brushes with bad girl behavior (e.g., foul language as a child, bullying her younger brother), Sheung doesn’t seem like a woman suffering extreme psychosis. She’s had a tough but average life, living in rundown public housing and watching as the government and property developers take the homes of adjoining neighbors and, most especially, one of her childhood friends. Years later, No. 1 Victoria Bay springs up in its place, and Sheung fixates on it as the location of her future home.

The problem: she can’t afford to live there. Few people can – one of many real and honest details about Hong Kong life that Pang Ho-Cheung highlights in Dream Home. The flashbacks give a cursory look at Sheung’s life, depicting key incidents while providing a glimpse at her routine, sometimes demoralizing day-to-day. Her work is unfulfilling (cold-call phone sales plus a retail job), and she's involved with a married louse (Eason Chan) who won’t even lend her money to help with an operation for her father (Norman Tsui). Meanwhile, the film regularly flashes forward to 2007, where Sheung continues her murder spree, moving from the security guard to a housewife (Michelle Ye) and her philandering husband (Sin Lap-Man), and then to the noisy upstairs neighbors (Lawrence Chou and Derek Tsang) who’re set for some fun with a couple of mainland prostitutes (Song Xiaocheng and Zhou Chuchu). Obviously, something has upset Sheung so much that she’s moved from cold-call sales to stabbing and slicing, and as the film jumps back and forth in time, the reason for her change slowly but surely surfaces.

Will Sheung’s reason for becoming a pint-sized Jason Voorhees resonate with audiences worldwide? Possibly not, as they’re very Hong Kong-specific. At its opening, Dream Home provides copious onscreen statistics about Hong Kong’s ridiculous housing woes. For example, since 1997, Hong Kongers have seen a 1% increase in wages, while housing prices jumped 15% in 2007 alone. Sheung’s breaking point ties into this explicitly told disparity, but it’s not just housing prices that make Sheung a murderess, it’s all the pressures of Hong Kong life – the materialism, the social pressure, and the incessant compromises – that push her over the edge. Pang reveals these details in a quiet and intense manner that any Hong Kong resident should be able to identify with. Combined with Yu Lik-Wai’s claustrophobic lensing and Gabriele Roberto’s sometimes cacophonic electronic score, the mood Pang creates is remarkable. Given everything, no matter how mundane, that Sheung goes through, there’s no doubt that she should reach a breaking point.

However, Sheung’s over-the-top response is somewhat problematic. Sheung’s killing spree involves some dark and very creative kills, from a simple disembowelment to death by vacuum, bedframe and drug paraphernalia. Pang’s use of everyday tools as killing instruments absolutely plays into his Hong Kong property theme, but is this level of extreme carnage really necessary? The violence is exceptionally sensationalistic, and if a viewer were to reject Dream Home due to its showy excess they would have every right to. Pang’s social themes in Dream Home are not subtext; they’re explicitly presented as the cause of Sheung’s psychosis, and the ensuing over-the-top violence feels too gleefully arranged to be justified. Also, the violence is only visceral, with little emotional impact on the characters. Josie Ho conveys her character’s subtle disintegration well, but when she kills, she’s pretty much all business – and she probably shouldn’t be. While her problems are felt and realistic, her solution enters the realm of gory fantasy.

Dream Home could easily polarize audiences, leaving only one segment fully satisfied: the people who dig Pang Ho-Cheung for his unapologetic love of the cinema. Film is a way for Pang to express who he is and what he cares about – and hey, he’s a guy who cares about Hong Kong social issues AND nearly every film genre known to man, including slashers, low-budget kaiju and probably obscure European porn. It’s not surprising for Pang to mix genres this way; Men Suddenly in Black and You Shoot, I Shoot both took real issues and exploited them for smart, winning satire. Dream Home attempts something similar with social drama and the slasher film, but maybe the lesson here is that the two genres are not easily combined. That doesn’t mean Dream Home is a failure; it isn't. The concept may be flawed, but the execution is superlative. Pang’s tension is superb, the effects from Fat Face are quality, and Pang’s sure use of black humor is at times enthralling. This is a guy who can do a lot, and if Dream Home is intended as a showreel for a multi-talented director with his own way of doing things, then it’s a good one. Either way, there's still gore and that'll do for some. (Kozo, Reviewed at the Udine Far East Film Festival, 2010)


• This review is based on the uncut version of Dream Home, which received its world premiere on April 23rd at the Udine Far East Film Festival. The Hong Kong theatrical cut features nearly 30 seconds of noticeably trimmed violence, most having to do with pregnant ladies and sliced off naughty bits. Basically, you'll know what's missing if you see both versions.
• The Hong Kong DVD/Blu-ray release from Edko features the Hong Kong theatrical cut, with the trimmed violence from the uncut version showing up as deleted scenes. Presumably, other territories will get the uncut international release on video.

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Edko Films Ltd. (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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