Dream Home has got to be one of the darkest, one of the most disturbingly graphic films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a film of two halves interlinked together. Half of the movie is an emotional Drama about the struggle of living, the problems with relationships and the trouble with finding an affordable house in Hong Kong, whilst the other half is about a rampage of vicious and brutal murders conducted by the same woman struggling to buy her dream home. The story of Dream Home is set in 2007, and it is about a woman called Cheng Lai-Sheung: a woman who struggles to buy her ideal flat with a sea view, so, in a fit of anger and confusion, she decides to kill the current occupiers in order to drop the price. Dream Home was a minor success upon release and I’m unsure as to whether it has gathered a cult following or not, because, in all honesty, Dream Home was another film that I saw and bought without any prior knowledge or interest. However, part of me is happy that I experienced Dream Home, because I haven’t watched something that affected me on such a visceral level in a very long time.
One very interesting aspect of Dream Home is the fact that the story isn’t told in chronological order. As I’ve stated before, Dream Home mixes emotional Drama and graphic Horror, but it decides to inter cut between Horror and Drama instead of intertwining both genres together, meaning that the film shows long swaths of emotional Drama before abruptly returning to the extremely graphic scenes of death and murder. This creates a very jarring juxtaposition, one that really divided critics upon release. Personally, I liked this approach because it made me view the movie as something more than a simple slasher movie. That way, I understood the social commentary and became more sympathetic towards the main character and the thought process that leads her to make such an extreme decision. As a result, Dream Home is less of a simple slasher flick and more of a pseudo serial killer movie that explores the killer’s past and the reasons behind why they do what they do.
Of course, it really does help that Dream Home is both very well written and really well acted. The story is relatively believable, if quite ridiculous in its premise, but the writing does it’s best to create a convincing plot with a handful of very believable characters. However, what works really well is that Dream Home got me on an emotional level because of how effective and believable the interactions between the characters were. At times, Dream Home is downright heartwarming and heartbreaking. It’s a film that explores the entirety of the Drama spectrum, and delivers on each front. That being said, though, the transitions to the violent death scenes are incredibly jarring, and the film’s more extreme content definitely distracts from the emotional moments, so the writing isn’t perfect. However, I feel that when Dream Home is good, it’s incredibly good, and when it’s disturbing, it’s incredibly disturbing, so I can’t say that Dream Home is a film that isn’t coherent with it’s writing.
In terms of the acting, Josie Ho (Cheng Lai-Sheung) is an amazing actress who’s able to portray both a realistic, sympathetic character and a frightening psychopath. Her performance is one of the greatest I’ve seen in a horror movie: it’s very reserved, realistic and fundamentally believable. In fact, Dream Home is a film that’s full of great performances, but Josie Ho is the star of the show, and she gives an absolutely unforgettable performance.
However, what struck me first about Dream Home is just how aesthetically beautiful the film is to watch. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, dynamic and incredibly well coordinated: every frame resembles a beautiful picture. Also, the lighting and colour the film uses is incredibly lush, vivid and dreamlike, and it accentuates the film’s cinematography perfectly whilst also dramatically affecting the more horrifying moments throughout the story. Dream Home is a film that’s a complete visual treat. It has a very natural, yet exaggerated style that’s both incredibly powerful and incredibly haunting, even if CGI was used to touch up some of the more visual sequences. But, in the end, Dream Home is definitely one of the most unforgettably visual films I’ve seen in a long time.
However, there’s no avoiding the absolute brutality that is the murder sequences of Dream Home. In my opinion, Dream Home is a brutally intense, deeply uncomfortable watch. It’s deaths are horrifyingly realistic and just, well, horrifying. As much as Dream Home wishes to be emotional and relatable, it’s also a film that refuses to shy away from overly gratuitous scenes of sex and violence. The effects are disgustingly convincing, thanks to a mix between practical effects and CGI, and the deaths themselves could not be darker in tone. There’s a fair few moments throughout the movie where Dream Home crosses the line of good taste and becomes a really difficult film to watch, but it’s unrelenting brutality is what makes the film stand out so much in the Asian Extreme Cinema genre. Dream Home is definitely a film that questions how far a filmmaker can go in terms of death and brutality.
If there was one thing I will criticize Dream Home for, it’s the fact that the film becomes somewhat tedious in the second half, mainly because it doesn’t add anything new or interesting to the story. However, I’d give Dream Home a tentative recommendation. A potential viewer has to be aware that Dream Home is relentlessly disturbing and horrifyingly graphic, but I still believe that Dream Home was quite a good film. The visual quality alone is worth seeing, but the film’s varied content is a very jarring experience. All in all, Dream Home is an effective Horror film that dares to have art-house inspirations, and I feel that its experimental approach to Horror cinema creates a worthwhile viewing experience. However, I recommend that one brings a very strong stomach if they wish to check this one out.