Much of the publicity surrounding Dream Home prior to its release was focused on the clashes between director Pang Ho Cheung 彭浩翔 and actress-producer Josie Ho 何超儀; arguments regarding the final cut was the supposed reason for the delays in bringing the film to the screen.
Last week, I finally got to see the movie as it has been wide released in Hong Kong. Classified as a Category III film in the territory, the producers have marketed Dream Home 維多利亞壹號 primarily as a cult gore film much more than as a social commentary. Josie Ho stars as a common telemarketer struggling to make ends meet; apart from her day job, she works a couple of part-time jobs at night as well. Her ultimate goal and obsession is to buy her dream home, not just any apartment, but one that oversees Victoria Harbor. When she finally has the cash to pay the deposit for her dream flat, however, the sellers decide to withdraw the flat from the market. Shocked and outraged, she decides to go all out in order to secure the apartment.
So what does this “all-out” entail? Well, Josie Ho’s character basically kills and maims the tenants living adjacent to the apartment she wants to buy. She succeeds and the massacre means that the flat is now no longer “desirable”. I don’t know how people in other countries view this, but with Chinese, the re-sell value of property would be significantly lower if anything nasty has happened in or near an apartment.
The film jumps back and forth in time: it starts with Josie on a rampage, and jumps back to show us her miserable life living in a cramped and old home with her parents. I suspect this narrative device helps spread out the murders, making it more palatable than having it all in one go in the final 30 minutes; it also means gore fans won’t have to wait an hour for anything gruesome to take place.
Much has also been said of the social commentary aspects of the film. Yes, they are there: property developers using under-handed tactics to force poor families from their homes for re-development and the impossibility of a white collar worker to even save enough for down payment for any home. It’s all there, and it works as the force that pushes Josie Ho’s character over the edge.
Anyway, what’s going to secure cult status for this film isn’t insight into social issues like ever-escalating-never-affordable property prices but how much gore there is. Let’s see, we have death by suffocation via plastic bag and vacuum cleaner, skulls bashed in by golf clubs, disembowelment, planks shoved down the mouth, screwdrivers through the back of the head, eyeballs squashed on the floor … I can’t remember all the ways people die. There is some sex and a guy does have his penis cut off. Pang employs a comic touch to all these proceedings so it doesn’t come off as overly revolting – some scenes actually solicited a few laughs.
As a final note, production quality is but no means low. I mention this because for many, if you say cult Hong Kong film, they think Riki-Oh. That’s one super low-budget film. No, Dream Home is a superior product: handsomely shot, well-written dialogue, and decent special effects.
Recommended viewing and arguably the best cult film to come out of Hong Kong in quite a while.