Dream Home (Hong Kong, 2010) (AKA "Victoria No. 1")
Starring: Josie Ho, Ching Wong, Helen To
In this dark mix of satirical drama and deliciously bloody bodycounting, we start things off with a security guard catching forty winks while someone armed with construction tools slowly slips a nylon tie around his neck. With one sharp tug, the guard finds himself awake, soon to be out of breath and desperately looking for something to cut off the tie while our perpetrator stands cautiously nearby, watching all of this unfold. The garroted guard eventually finds a box cutter and tries to slice the nylon off, only to end up digging deep into this neck and gouging himself to death.
After that attention-grabbing debacle, we flashback sometime earlier and follow one Chang-Lai Sheung, a twenty-something Hong Kong woman working two jobs in order to save enough to rent an apartment with a view of the Victoria Harbor. Her dedication to acquire such a specific settlement stems from both a childhood dream and the struggles she went through as a working adult, wherein she and her family suffers through the eighties and nineties Hong Kong property boom in which poorer families were forced away from their homes (often through criminal means) in order for their land to be used in constructing luxury flats.
While we watch these little non-linear snippets of Sheung's past showcase her slow obsession to better her and her family's lives, we are also treated with present day interjections of a mad killer brutally murdering flat occupants in a manner so worthy of the slasher sub-genre. What's intriguing about this killing spree is that the film eventually identifies the killer as none other than Sheung herself in an early reveal that hits us no soon after the twenty minute mark. While this may have ruined any potential mystery between the connection of the building flat massacre to Sheung's plight for a flat with a sea side view, it does instead help cement the fact that Dream Home will be more of a character-heavy narration early on, with the only question in mind would be how far will our lead go to get what she wants?
To be fair, a lot of the drama thriller portion works; rather than bombarding us with an hour or so of straight life tragedies before serving us the gory helpings of sliced up teens and unexpected victims, Dream Home's time-jumping almost bite-sized approach to the events that lead to the massacre help even out the pacing as well as not overdo the sappy soul-sucking realism that is the economy and the things it brings out of people who cannot keep up with it. It also helps that Hong Kong singer and actress Josie Ho was pretty good as an inexperienced killer who gets beaten around nearly as much as her victims, though excelled far better in her role as a victim of society shouldering what can be looked at as a (twisted) Herculean task in today's market.
When it comes to the slasher bits, I can guarantee Dream Home will be a gore hound's wet dream; while some of the murders were obviously CGed (like a certain eye-popping scene that looked a tad too cartoonish to be anywhere realistic), a good deal of the gore and blood still used old fashioned corn syrup and really nasty practical and make-up works. These deaths range from simple knife killings to methodically torturous vacuum suffocation, some intentional while others are accidental, but they all have that mostly justified mean-spirited streak to them as most of the victims aren't so innocent to begin with. I guess it was a way for the film to ease us into rooting for the killer, but one or two kills may keep us from entirely forgetting Sheung isn't too well in the head at this point, particularly one murder involving a pregnant woman who miscarries during the attack. I also love the fact that this film found a way to enhance the intensity of these killings by confining them in small spaces which the further the plot goes, the tighter and more claustrophobic they become.
1 male garroted with a nylon tie, neck with a boxcutter
1 female gets a screwdriver ran through her head
1 pregnant female gets a vacuumed seal bag over her head, smothered
1 male had his neck broken against a night stand
1 female passed away, cause unknown (flashback)
1 male stabbed on the neck with a broken bong
1 female had her head slammed through a toilet
1 male suffers a mesothelioma attack, suffocates (flashback)
1 male repeatedly ran through with a knife, castrated
1 female shot, impaled through the head with a broken plank
1 male throat cut with a knife, bled to death
1 male shot through the temple
1 male shot in the mouth