Thursday, January 6, 2011

Not Quite A Dream Home

 Technically, this is an accomplished Hong Kong horror film. The cinematography is slick and moody, the central performance by Josie Ho is strong, and the direction by Ho-Cheung Pang is solid (mostly). It's a Cat III flick, so the violence and gore are piled on thick. There are half a dozen jaw-dropping, super-inventive kill sequences that are blissfully free of restraint. This is not one of those pulled back Hong Kong horror films that is pandering to the more conservative Mainland censors -- and audiences.

So hats off to the producers Conroy Chan Chi-Chung,  Subi Liang, and Andrew Ooi for a job (technically) well done.

 A great film, however, is supported by a strong script. Unfortunately, the Dream Home script is an awful, schizophrenic mess. According to the rear sleeve of the Blu-ray, the film is about a Hong Kong woman (Ho) who buys an apartment in Hong Kong's insane property market. She can't make the payments, so she resorts to murder. Well, no, that's not why she resorts to murder, and she doesn't ever buy an apartment.

 The film mostly focuses on Ho murdering people in the years leading up to her near purchase of an apartment. It flashes back and forth between the murders, her childhood, and present day Hong Kong where she works two jobs in order to save extra pennies. The marginally important background we get on her is that she had an abusive loser of a father and a little brother. Occasionally, she got beaten, too. A present day addition to this mess is Ho's pointless relationship with a married man. She meets him in expensive hotels you rent by the hour and gets left with the tab. This relationship makes her character look like an idiot.

 It's not clear at all why Ho has become a murderer. At one point, her murders have lowered the value of an apartment she's eyeballing, but we never get a connecting line between her actions and intentions. We are not shown why someone who appears to be relatively sane turned into a serial killer at some point. And not a very good one, either. Her murders are sloppy, she hangs around after the corpses have hit the floor, and she skulks around hallways with blood on her face.

The film, ultimately, is nuts, and not in a good way. Either everything fell apart during the edit (the endless flashbacks and flash-forwards suggest that) or they went with a script that existed but was not ready to be filmed. Clearly, the priority here was violence, and there's lots of that to go around, but why is the screenplay (credited to Pang, Kwok Cheung Tsang and Chi-Man Wan) so bloody fragmented and illogical? There are bits and pieces of interesting threads everywhere, but nothing is expanded upon or dramatically explored. Once I reached the half way point, I couldn't help but contemplate what a missed opportunity it was. They had everything at their disposal except a script that made sense.  It's a great shame because I like Josie Ho a lot (I met her once and found her to be lovely), she has plans to make more films with these producers, and her sensibility is in the right place. Next time, I hope she'll take a closer look at the script and ask herself: What is this really about? And does its follow its theme through to the end in a clear and dramatic way?

 Finally, I called Pang's direction "mostly" solid above because a director's most important job is to make a story work dramatically. If it doesn't work on the page, it's not going to work on the screen. This doesn't work dramatically, so Pang didn't do that part of his job.

To be fair, it's good to see a Hong Kong flick that revisits, on a gore level, at least, some of the glorious excesses of the 80's typified by such classics as Love To Kill, Run and Kill, Underground Banker, and Her Vengeance.

Still worth seeing? I think so.

1 comment:

  1. jervaise brooke hamsterJanuary 8, 2011 at 8:23 PM

    Phantom, could you do an article about Pauline Hickey, that bird was so astonishing, thanks pal.