Dream Home blends socio-economic drama with brutal kills to form one of the least conventional Slashers of recent years. Set and produced in Hong Kong, Dream Home tells the story of Cheng Lai-Sheung, a young woman of modest means who has always wanted to live in a particular seaside high-rise.
The film begins with a spectacular kill then proceeds to jump back and forth in time, showing why Sheung is so obsessed with living in the swanky building, starting with her family being forced to move when she was just a child, taking her grandfather far from his beloved views of the ocean.
As flashbacks fill us in on Sheung’s personal history and Hong Kong’s recent economic history, of its growing divide between rich and poor and the housing crisis that further hampered the latter as it benefited the former, in the present we watch as Sheung slaughters first a young couple and then a group of hipsters.
The kills are graphic, creative, and superbly executed. Sheung wears no mask, but storms through her victims with a toolbelt slung across her hips, making full and bloody use of everything from a hammer to a screwdriver. She doesn’t stop there, though; she is nothing if not an opportunist, even vacuum-sealing one of her victims using the unfortunate woman’s own equipment.
A bit of humor is thrown in to lighten an otherwise dark tone, but even the laughs are of a particularly black sort, drawing chuckles from a disemboweling and a castration, for example.
The drama and horror elements work well together, the tone shifting seamlessly between sad and intense. The narrative moves from character-building backstory to brutal killings without stumbling.
If the film has one weakness, it’s that Sheung’s progression from mildly obsessed to homicidal is not made clear, nor is it especially believable. We see her kill before we learn why she does so, and so we accept her as a nutjob early on, but if the story had been told chronologically, starting with Sheung’s childhood, through her family’s troubles, her grandfather’s health issues, her losing the opportunity to buy the apartment she’s always dreamed of owning, and to . . . her killing a dozen people in a brutal fashion, well, the gap in her murderous evolution would have been far more obvious.
There’s little indication that Sheung is unbalanced to the point of perpetrating the kind of violence displayed here. As mentioned, she’s a little obsessed, sure, but a rampaging psychopath? Where in the hell did that come from?
But, as I pointed out, the narrative jumps through and across time serve to blur the transitional gap between Obsessed Sheung and Kill-Happy Sheung. In the end, what stand out in Dream Home are the unconventional story and the eyebrow-raising kills.
Length: 96 min