The Film:  Dream Home (2010)

The Principles:  Ho-Cheung Pang (Writer/Director).  Josie Ho, Michelle Ye, Eason Chan

The Premise:  A young woman (Josie Ho) is all set to achieve her lifelong dream of owning her own home, but when things don‘t go the way she planned, she gets desperate and things get…sticky.

Is It Good:  It is!  Pang turns in really good work here as writer and director and Ho carries a LOT of weight as the lead.  Essentially it’s a story about how far someone will go to fulfill a lifelong dream, but it has dashes (some bigger than others) of sociopolitical commentary and – even though it gets heavy-handed at times – it manages to nicely weave the thoughtful stuff in with some of the most visceral gore and violence I’ve seen in a very, very long time.

Cheng Lai-Sheung (Ho) is a moderately successful bank employee who has only one focus – to own her own flat with a harbor view.  It’s what her grandfather always wanted and she sat with him out by the water every day while growing up poor in a tiny cramped apartment, sharing a room with her younger brother.  And this is her only focus – she regularly turns down outings and trips with friends, desperately determined to save every last penny she can towards the purchase of this apartment.  That’s the gist – in an effort not to spell out the plot word for word we’ll just say that her plans fall through so she picks up a trick she learned from her childhood watching greedy developers run her friends and neighbors out of town – she terrorizes the people from whom she’s trying to buy this apartment by systematically murdering all of their neighbors, hoping the price will fall as the body count rises and the owners become even more desperate to sell than she is to buy.

Is It Worth A Look:  Certainly.  Pang makes a bold move by fracturing the narrative – weaving in moments of Sheung’s life and story between scenes of utter devastation and it’s a testament to Ho that she’s able to walk both lines so well.  I don’t want to say the audience roots for her, but it’s hard to just outright vilify her – you’re left with a sense of wanting to know just what in the hell she’s up to with all of this and it’s because she plays the backstory with such a vulnerable charm that you can’t help but have the afterglow of that color what you see in the present.  And it’s equally a testament to Pang that he can pull of both…styles, if you will – being able to give the dramatic moments some meaty weight and pull some good (if not always great) stuff out of his actors and then turn around and go balls deep on the fuckedupedness of it all.

And fucked up it is.  The sort of violence that would send Middle America into a tizzy.  Even with the streak of satirical dark (DARK) humor it was almost too much for me and that’s saying something…something good, depending on who you are.  But the anti-capitalism sentiment does come on a touch too thick in places and the ending voice-over ends up working to undercut the poignant, bleak tone he had stuck with the landing, but overall it’s definitely worth checking out.

Random Anecdotes:  Apparently Ho owns the production company that financed the film and served as executive producer.  When the film was finished in 2009, she and Pang had a disagreement over the final product – she pushed for it to be more outrageous and graphic.  MORE!  I don’t even know if more is possible.  I don’t want to know what kind of fucked up, repugnant shit is floating around in that woman’s head.

Cinematc Soulmates:  The Money Pit.  That commercial for the vacuum bags people store winter clothes in.