Dream Home – Review
Cheng Li-sheung is a young, upwardly mobile professional finally ready to invest in her first home. But when the deal falls through, she is forced to keep her dream alive - even if it means keeping her would-be neighbors dead.
There are six days of our K-O-Ween 31 Days of Halloween feature left and today we are off to Hong Kong to take a look at Ho-Cheung Pang’s Dream Home. If you are a fan of super stylish and absolutely brutal slasher horror then you are going to love Dream Home. Set in Hong Kong and focusing on a young woman’s struggle to acquire the perfect flat in one of the most hostile housing markets in the world. Dream Home aims to shock the viewer while making them laugh at the same time.
I’m probably horribly bias when it comes to Dream Home. I am going to attempt to review it objectively rather than simply rave about it. Technically, it is not as good of a horror movie as many others on this list. If you are looking for a good time, however, it is simply fantastic. Combining an almost Tarantino level of style with some of the most gruesome kills in horror history. Dream Home is both shocking and fun. Without further ado, let’s take a look. As always I will give a quick, spoiler free, breakdown of the movie which you can skip if you like.
We have been reviewing a horror movie a day for the entirety of October 2022 leading up to Halloween. I intended these reviews to be a bit of a shorter format but it kind of didn’t work out that way. Still, we have six days remaining so keep checking back. We are featuring a range of movies from horror classics to international hits and a few indie darlings. You can check out the entire K-O-Ween feature by clicking right here.
Dream Home – Synopsis
Dream Home follows the story of Cheng, played by Josie Ho, and her attempt to purchase a flat in a housing complex facing the Victoria bay. The story takes place over the course of 30 years or so and events are shown in a variable chronological order. Sometimes we are seeing scenes from Cheng’s childhood or recent past, other times it is scenes from the present day.
Cheng’s family used to live in affordable housing near the harbour. Her grandfather was a sailor and used to enjoy sitting on the shore, looking out to sea. It was Cheng’s job to find him everyday and bring him back home for meals. Cheng’s granddad tells her that they may have to move and asks her how she would feel about that. Cheng does not want to move as she will lose touch with her friend Jimmy. If she does have to move, she wishes to move to a flat with a sea view so that she doesn’t have to search for her grandfather every day.
Zoning rules and the contracts given to corrupt property developers by the Hong Kong government mean the city has the most expensive housing in the world. A large population and limited land for building leads to the price per square foot being astronomically high. Property developers, apparently working with the Triads, want to use the land that Cheng’s family’s housing is situated on to build blocks of flats. The people, unwilling to move, are terrorised by the developers. They cut their electric and place snakes into their houses. Eventually, the people are forced to move and new properties are built on the land.
A Killer Housing Market – Synopsis Cont.
Fast forwarding to 2007, Cheng has been working at a bank and saving the majority of her money for a deposit. She has become obsessed with the thought of purchasing one particular flat. This flat faces the harbour and she wishes to move in there with her dad. The problem is, the housing market is on the rise and the owners of the flat keep increasing the price.
Cheng is working multiple jobs but, due to them not auto-paying her wages, she is ineligible for a mortgage. She has been seeing a married man for hook ups in hotels and hopes he can loan her some money. Her dad is sick and hope seems to be fading fast. Feeling desperate, Cheng decides to resort to drastic measures.
A security guard sits sleeping in the monitor room of a block of flats. Suddenly, a person places a zip tie over his neck. The security guard wakes up choking. He struggles to breathe as the person pulls out a hammer. The security guard knocks down a tool box and pulls out a box cutter. Desperate to breathe, he begins cutting at the zip tie to get it off. The box cutter proves to be completely useless at cutting the plastic tie but perfect for cutting into the security guard’s neck. The man finally expires, choking as he bleeds to death on the floor. The person leaves as the security guard proves to be the first of a number of brutal murder victims.
Stylish Slasher Horror
Dream Home is a fantastically stylish slasher horror. Absolutely brutal in its delivery. The movie combines elements of drama with a calculated killer on an intense killing spree. The movie starts as it means to go on, with a horrific kill scene. Nothing too different here but that is set to change. Unlike many other slasher movies, however, Dream Home prefers to expand on its story in between the scenes of violence. There is a heavy focus here on the plight of Cheng and her family. We have flashbacks to her childhood and we can see how horribly difficult her life has become. She is an incredibly sympathetic character which contrasts nicely with the events occurring in the present time.
Set against a backdrop of the difficult Hong Kong housing market, the story is firmly routed in the realities of life for low earners in the city. Cheng is working multiple jobs and appears to be dating a deadbeat businessman who is already married. She is receiving no help from the people around her so she decides to help herself. This turns Dream Home into a violent genre picture full of action packed sequences that wouldn’t be out of place in a seinen anime or a Tarantino movie. It’s brilliant stuff and tremendously fun.
Dream Home is incredibly brutal, it has to be said. It’s one of the most violent slasher horror movies I have ever seen. Naturally, movies like this fail or thrive based on their kills. Numbers often takes a back seat to the gruesomeness and inventiveness of the kills. Saw stood out for the sheer creativity of the way Jigsaw murdered his victims. Dream Home stands out for this same reason.
There are some, frankly, disgusting scenes here. Expect fingers to be missing, eyeballs to be popped out, guts to be spilled and so much more. It all looks horribly convincing as well. The special effects department has gone wild here and done an incredibly realistic job. From what I can tell, the vast majority of the effects here are practical, which is very nice to see. Buckets of blood are spilled and it’s impossible not to feel sorry for the victims.
Perhaps Not For Everyone
Dream Home, as mentioned above, is horribly violent. For much of its run, the violence is played for laughs. At times, however, I imagine some viewers will be put off entirely. There is a concerted effort to disgust the viewer here and most people who watch will be left at least a little grossed out. Needless to say, if you have a weak stomach, you are probably going to want to avoid this movie.
There is one scene in Dream Home that is, for lack of a better description, disturbing. Whenever I think of horror movie kills, this scene is always at the forefront of my mind. Without going into too much detail it involves a heavily pregnant woman and it is almost as bad as you might imagine. This scene was cut in the Asian release and it is not hard to understand why. All being fair in love and horror, some will likely appreciate how incredibly gross the scene is. Others, however, will likely turn the movie off right there. If you want to watch but also wish to avoid this scene, skip from 23 minutes to 26 and you should be fine.
Dream Home’s chronology is, also, a little strange. Again, it reminds me of a Tarantino movie and it’s hard not to see the influence of Pulp Fiction here. The timeline darts around all over the place. It isn’t until the end that you really have a grasp of how the events have played out. I imagine this will likely throw a few people off and it can be, honestly, quite difficult to follow.
Highly Stylised and Very Funny
Dream Home is ridiculously stylish. There are a number of creative shots that aim to captivate the viewer. Interesting camera and editing techniques are used to add flair to some of the kills. The kill scenes almost feel like video game set pieces where the developer has complete control over the camera to add maximum shock value for the viewer. The filming style is always interesting and lends itself well to the almost comic book style of the violence.
Dream Home is, also, quite a funny movie. It has a satirical approach so there are plenty of little winks to the viewer. Some of the scenes, however, lean even further into the humour and are legitimately hilarious. There is one particular stretch during the middle of the movie that had my partner and I laughing our asses off every time we have a watched it. It takes place in the flat of a group of people who are taking drugs and having sex. The scene is played almost entirely for laughs and is a great example of how well balanced the movie is between drama, comedy, and horror.
Fantastic Acting, Excellent Cinematography and an Immersive Story
Dream Home is, for the most part, very well acted. Side characters are all pretty decent but it is Josie Ho that carries the film. Ho, as Cheng, is easy to sympathise with and a compelling mix of victim and femme fatale. Ho is the daughter of a billionaire casino magnate so this character is directly in contrast to her actual upbringing. She also co-produced the film which was released under her own film studio 852 Films. We have Ho to thank for the fact that Dream Home is so comically violent, as well. Director Pang Ho-cheung wanted Dream Home to be more realistic. It was Josie Ho that desired more violence and for the movie to be a little more ridiculous.
Cinematography, in general, is excellent. There are lots of fantastic outdoor shots highlighting the unusual landscape of Hong Kong. Cameras capture the cityscape from high up and the sense of scale is always impressive. Indoor shots are full of detail and flair with the flashback shots being particularly interesting. There is a sense of claustrophobia and darkness used to highlight the desperation of Cheng’s situation. Is very nicely done and always interesting to look at.
Slasher movies don’t often spend so much time focusing on the life and story of a character. Dream Home is a little different, however, in that it wants you to relate to, and sympathise with, Cheng. There is a heavy drama element throughout. Much time is spent elaborating on her past as well as her current living situation. It really helps you to get invested in her character and sets the movie apart from other similar, mindless, slashers.
Is it a Knockout?
Dream Home is a wickedly stylish slasher horror set against a backdrop of the difficult Hong Kong property market. Featuring some absolutely brutal kills and a sense of comedy that is sure to make you laugh, Dream Home is a compelling watch. Excellent cinematography and decent acting help prop up the story but it's the kills that you are here for and they are both gruesome and, at times, hilarious.
Dream Home has a keen sense of story telling and wants the viewer to relate to the plight of its protagonist Cheng. Featuring a somewhat confused chronology, the jumping between time periods may be off-putting for some. There are a number of scenes that are incredibly graphic. One, in particular, featuring a pregnant woman deserves mention for being genuinely disturbing. If you are not a fan of violent horror, you will likely want to give Dream Home a miss. If, however, you enjoy stylish slashers with a well developed story then you should definitely check this movie out.