Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Not the One With Rachel Weisz

“In a crazy city, if one is to survive, one must be more than crazy.”

 Easily one of the best opening quotes I’ve heard!

 Quick Plot: We open with the brutal slaying of an apartment security guard in 2007.

 We’ll get back to that.

Meet Sheung (Josie Ho, redeeming herself from the horrid Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li), a bank telemarketer by day, retail employee by night, and unhappy dreamer during both. Sheung longs to buy her own flat in the spiffy part of town, something she’s wanted ever since her unhappy childhood where she witnessed her own neighbors cruelly driven out of their homes by greedy developers and violent mobs.  Now an adult with just enough savings, Sheung is ready to make an offer on a 2-bedroom with a seaside view and nothing--NOTHING--will stop her.

 So back to that strangle-stab...

Dream Home is essentially a slasher, but one done with such innovation that it almost elevates the category. Sheung embarks on a brutal murder spree, but the film threads that one massacre throughout its running time, alternating between Sheung’s childhood flashbacks, the buildup towards the sale gone wrong, and Sheung’s determined attacks upon anyone in her way, be they drunk punks, trigger-happy cops, or wealthy pregnant women.

As a result of its structure, Dream Home does something very important: it makes us understand Sheung’s actions. That’s not to say we agree with them or cheer her on--no character can be likable enough to do what she does with a vacuum to a mom-to-be--but we see how and why an everyday woman could take this path. Sheung has dreamt about this chance for her entire life, and just when she gets it, that pesky housing market takes another turn and suddenly, it’s once again out of her reach. It’s NOT fair, but of course, that doesn’t justify mass homicide.

There’s a smart mix of horror, smart satire, and gooey old gore in Dream Home. The marriage isn’t perfect, but for 100 minutes, it’s incredibly fascinating.

High Points
Dream Home isn’t quite a black comedy, but there are some hysterically horrific elements to it, especially once the bloodshed really starts to drip. A fairly lengthy sequence involving sharp bongs, a naked hooker, and Sheung’s determinism is both a great horror scene AND bit of comedy

Low Notes
I didn’t quite have this problem, but I know many a viewer has taken issue with Sheung’s coldness and the idea that our protagonist has little redeeming value. I’m going to draw a strained comparison to Kristen Wiig’s unhappy Annie in Bridesmaids, another female character making the wrong decisions. Like Annie, Sheung dates a man who treats her terribly and feels sorry for herself, even if her life is still easier than many. I don’t know about you, but I know both women because we ARE human. Too often films—particularly horror—delegate female characters to simple Madonna or whore categories. Sheung is by no means cinema’s new treasure, but her flaws are real and fascinating

Lessons Learned
All men care about is the 19th hole

Forcing cocaine upon a passed out drunk will reward you with having your crotch vomited upon

When in doubt, pay for the night. Hourly love motel rates are a secret killer

I had heard plenty of other bloggers recommend Dream Home (beginning with Mattsuzaka with this fine older review) and having finally sat down with it, I couldn’t agree more. This is as funny as it is scary, satirical in its view of class lines but shocking in its violence. Best of all, it’s a slasher with a brain, one that toys with structure in a way I’ve never quite seen. Stream it on Instant Watch if you can or pick it up cheap. Trust me. It’s good.


  1. This is already on my to review list along with "The Last Circus" so good to see another review confirming that I need to get it watched.

  2. "All men care about is the 19th hole" Is that what the kids are callin' it these days? I've been thinking' about this one, and I think you convinced me.

  3. Definitely Elwood! I actually liked this one far more than The Last Circus, but I had specific issues with that one and I seem to be in the minority on that.

    Bugg: Maybe it's a Hong Kong thing? But regardless, it's ours now!

  4. I totally agree. This film completely elevates the slasher formula and take it to another level a la Inside. My god this was so brutal and relentless.

  5. AND funny! What a complex and interesting tone it kept from beginning to end.