Repulsion, Hong Kong-Style
by Glenn Lovell
Sub-prime takes on a whole new connotation in “Dream Home,” a timely import from Hong Kong directed and co-scripted by the immensely talented Pang Ho-cheung. Like our home-grown “Open House,” which was passed over last year for lesser slasher entries, this one is offbeat with a vengeance. It also reminds us that in the present economic climate people everywhere are desperate enough to slay to stay (put).
As a little girl Cheng Lai-Sheung (Josie Ho) dreamed of a condo with a view of the harbor. She was conditioned to want elbow room, having grown up in a slum near the freeway. Still, the place had sentimental value. So when triad thugs and developers first raid, then raze, the buildings across the way, Sheung makes it her mission to buy one of the coveted apartments with an unobstructed view of Victoria Bay.
Complicating matters are a critically ill father (Norman Chui), a jerk of a married boyfriend (Eason Chan), and a per-unit price tag in the millions. Clearly her take-home as telemarketer and boutique clerk won’t begin to cover the down payment.
Sheung takes her father’s tool belt and goes to work, butchering the new high-rise’s security guard and tenants. How graphic does this get? Plenty. In the first of three prolonged attacks, a snoozing guard is silenced with a plastic zip tie and, while thrashing about for air, slices his own jugular. In the second attack, a pregnant women is vacuumed packed as her husband talks to his mistress in the hall. (Do we detect a misogynistic pattern here?) And in the most ambitious of the three break-ins, a noisy upstairs party/orgy turns red with more than embarrassment as bodies and body parts mount.
Yes, you’re right, one victim, mid-coitus, receives a John Wayne Bobbitt bob.
Once you’ve seen this film, you’ll understand why the makeup effects person and action choreographer received such prominent billing. They earned it: The killings are at once gruesome, outrageous and original. (Who knew a bong was such a lethal weapon.) De Palma and Argento would, I’m sure, be impressed, and probably smack themselves and ask, “Now why didn’t I think of that?!”
Midnight Spookers is billboarding this bloodbath, now available on PPV, because it’s stylish and jaw-droppingly funny and features a knockout lead performance by Ho, who sometimes brings to mind the young Catherine Deneuve of Polanski’s “Repulsion.” By flashing back to Sheung’s grim childhood and periodically panning Hong Kong’s skyline, Pang plants the seeds for the carnage to come. Ho does the rest by making her protagonist both sympathetic and determinedly psychotic. In one amazing sequence, she stops mid-slaughter to take a call from her boyfriend who places an order for champagne and cigarettes.
“Dream Home” is said to be based on an actual crime spree. Given the current housing market, this wouldn’t surprise me.