Cutthroat real-estate prices call for bloody countermeasures in “Dream Home,” Pang Ho-cheung’s deliciously dark take on the dog-eat-dog Hong Kong housing market. High-concept splatter pic is another slickly produced, femme-driven item from local multihyphenate Pang (aka Edmond Pang), with its intricate editing and dash of capitalist critique adding some gloss and a hint of topicality to the blood-soaked proceedings. Local mid-May opening was overshadowed by the socko B.O. of “Ip Man 2,” though “Home” should be a profitable property in ancillary, both in Hong Kong and abroad. Remake potential could also spike interest Stateside.
Mousy thirtysomething Cheng Lai-sheung (Josie Ho, also one of pic’s producers) works two jobs, one of which is selling home loans by phone, in the hope of setting aside enough money to buy her own apartment. The daughter of an ailing construction worker (Norman Chui), Cheng has always dreamed of reacquiring the view of Victoria Harbor she knew as a child, before expensive skyscrapers made that panorama disappear.
When Cheng finally has enough money for a deposit on her dream home — with sea view, natch — a hike in the volatile stock market makes the owners decide to raise the price, sending Cheng into a murderous frenzy. All her victims live or work in the coveted high-rise, and Cheng starts with a security guard (Wong Ching) downstairs and slowly works her way up among the tenants.
Pang and editor Wenders Li have devised an intricate flashback structure that lets the savage night unfold while also filling in the protag’s working-class childhood and her travails trying to save the necessary cash for the condo. Though initially resembling a spaghetti bowl of different strands, despite captions indicating dates, pic quickly finds its footing, and its approach has one distinct advantage: Pang doesn’t need to wait for the entire backstory to be explained before plunging into the gore.
Scrambled timelines unfortunately allow a defining character moment, involving Cheng’s father and his expensive medication, to get somewhat lost in the shuffle, though generally, Wenders Li’s editing is strong, with the frenetic cutting during the scenes of butchery especially effective.
Gore hounds will find the imaginatively staged killings certainly worth their time. In one of the film’s, er, nicer touches, Cheng uses only household and construction items to butcher her victims. Creative use of a vacuum cleaner on a pregnant woman is especially disturbing, and one graphic image finds Pang adopting a gently feminist p.o.v., also suggested in a bloodless subplot that focuses on Cheng’s loveless affair with a married man (Eason Chan).
The film’s take on the ridiculously overpriced Hong Kong real-estate market is mainly in service of the story, and a slightly more pointed critique might have added another layer of enjoyment and bite. (Somewhat ironically, the bulk of pic’s $2.5 million budget comes from star Ho’s 852 Films, which is financed by her father, Stanley Ho, a casino and real-estate mogul.)
Widescreen cinematography by Jia Zhangke regular Yu Lik-wai, taking over from Pang’s regular d.p., Charlie Lam, is lush and entirely in tune with the genre, with expert framing, saturated colors and occasional use of tilt-shift lenses. Rest of the tech package is neat.