The extent in which some individuals will go to in order to fulfill a prized desire can be absolutely ghastly at times—especially when it involves murder. Director Ho-Cheung Pang’s film Dream Home explores this concept of desire through the most shocking of actions, going as far as exploring the obsessive nature that stems from such materialistic endeavors. Linking back to a childhood memory of her family being displaced from their home by land developers for the purpose of building an apartment complex, the film follows the plight of Hong Kong telemarketer Cheng Lai-Sheung (played here by Josie Ho) as she wrestles with her obsession to essentially reclaim the domain she once lost. Overworked and with the price of occupancy at the apartment complex steadily increasing, we find Cheng Lai-Sheung executing a desperate plan to lower the paying price at the complex through a rather disturbing undertaking—by viciously murdering a portion of its tenants.
First and foremost, Dream Home is a horror film. From the focus on severed throats to the elongated loss of spilt entrails, the film is perhaps one of the most gruesome depictions of bodily harm to be release within Hong Kong cinema for some time. Considering this is quite a departure for director Ho-Cheung Pang—whose recent films have been primarily within the genres of comedy and drama—Dream Home starts out with a grisly murder and continuously establishes sequence after sequence of escalating carnage. Couple this with some of the most creatively comical ways in which certain individuals are butchered and you have a film that is darkly humorous at times. This use of comedy certainly alleviates the seriousness of the film’s material, but it may have the opposite effect towards those viewers willing to do without the comical elements within horror films. And while the film does weigh heavy on the brutality of Cheng Lai-Sheung’s killing spree, there are elements of drama intersperse throughout that allow us to sympathize with the her situation. This is not to say that her rather vicious actions are justifiable but we do see the development of a character that isn’t simply viewed as an individual without much back-story or purpose for their inappropriate deeds. With our introduction to her is viewed through a scene of ruthless homicide, the film slowly explores her initially simplistic reasoning for her wanted to have such an apartment complex in the first place.
It’s this character development that makes Dream Home far more than simply another horror film with one-dimensional lead characters. While the elements of drama aren’t specifically original, they do provide a strong foundation in which to examine the economy and subsequent housing market problems that have faced Hong Kong within the last two decades. While other films have explored this concept in the past, it’s refreshing to see it utilized to such a degree within a horror film such as Dream Home in that it broadens the scope of film’s narrative to be somewhat more poignant. In a way, this choice makes the homicidal actions within the film seemingly more plausible given the circumstances surrounding Cheng Lai-Sheung’s despairing economical situation. Pushing people to the edges of desperation, we slowly see the effects of how a perceived desire to want something of materialistic substance can essentially propel people to levels of absolute insanity.
Inevitably, many will come to watch Dream Home in order to see it devastatingly brutal actions of murderous mayhem, but the film has much more going for it than initially meets the eye. There are underlying elements of satire that permeate throughout the film, expanding upon its basic premise of horror and looking beyond it to gloss over issues that are relevant in today’s current society. While these elements of satire may not be as strong as some would hope, they do offer the film the ability to stand alongside its strong usage of gore and give the viewer much more to think about. With a considerable performance by Josie Ho—a surprise given her rather subdued roles in the past—Dream Home is a surprisingly refreshing horror film that is as gruesome in the bodily mutilation it showcases as its widened—albeit superficial—examination of the current housing crisis within Hong Kong.