Ho-Cheung Pang (Exodus, Love In A Puff) is building himself quite a cult following. He's somewhat of an oddity in Hong Kong, working in genres that are not among the most popular over there, but the man has a unique and detailed style that grants his films a broader appeal. With Dream Home [Wai Dor Lei Ah Yut Ho] he takes on the American slasher and turns it upside down, keeping all the good stuff and enriching it with his own particularities. The result is once again more than enjoyable.
You don't see much slasher films in Hong Kong. Apparently people running around with knives gruesomely killing others isn't much of a spectacle over there. Those expecting a true genre flick might end up a little disappointed though. While all the necessary ingredients are here, the filler is quite different indeed. In between all the killings, Pang's style and themes rise to the surface to turn Dream Home into a true Ho-Cheung Pang film.
One important difference with the American slasher is that the identity of the killer is revealed early on. In fact, apart from the first scene Pang never tries to actually hide the identity of the culprit. No masks, hoods or gender trickery, if you require tension to enjoy these types of films it's best to skip this one. This is compensated by some inventive kills and some lovely black humor though, so genre fans still have some tasty bits to chew on.
The film is split in two parts. One part tells the current events (including the murders), interwoven between these segments are flashbacks explaining the background of the killings. And I must say, choosing the housing market is quite an uncommon setting for a slasher flick, but it works quite well and it provides an original perspective for a film like this. At least it's different from the countless revenge/childhood trauma storylines so often featured.
Visually slasher films are usually drab and boring. Not so when Pang is handling the film. He must be one of the most stylish (yet subtle) film makers of Hong Kong. Perfect use of light and color, excellent framing and some landmark shots that will linger long after the film is finished. And best of all, it doesn't sit in the way of the more graphic parts. And for once his fascination with complex architecture is truly functional. Add to that one absolutely superb time warp shot and I've got nothing to complain about.
The music is equally stylish but not as bold or remarkable. There's a cool tune playing in the apartment of the young boys, apart from that it's a pretty slick and atmospheric soundtrack but ultimately missing somewhat of a unique identity. It suffices though, especially for this film which doesn't really build on tension or a darker atmosphere, but it's still somewhat of a missed opportunity.
The acting is pretty solid. Josie Ho is quite skilled at switching between the two sides of her character, transforming herself from a rather soft working girl into a ruthless killer. She carries the film with ease which is a big plus. The supporting cast is pretty good too, though not too much is required from them except gurgle a little and die. Which they do quite nicely.
It's a little weird watching a slasher flick that doesn't even try to be tense or fool you with a twist. Instead we're handed some creative killings (especially when random fodder is used to put as many holes in the tenants as possible). There's one particular scene involving a bed that should be booked as one of the coolest slasher killings ever.
Apart from the horror (including some intentionally grim humor) the drama is pretty much okay. It gives an extra dimension to the film that fills the blanks rather aptly. While the storyline is usually not a big seller in slasher films the unique setting does require some extra attention. And it makes for a killer ending here. Perfect joke, exactly my kind of humor.
Don't go in expecting a true slasher flick, expect a genre flick adapted by the mind of Ho-Cheung Pang. Many of his earlier themes (adultery, architecture, black humor) are featured in the film, but included in such a way that they reinforces the slasher scenes rather than detract from them. True genre fans might find the filler a little boring or long-winding, but I believe that in the end they made the film a lot better than it ought to be. Good stuff, Ho-Cheung Pang rarely disappoints.