Friday, February 18, 2011

Upscale HK Horror: Dream Home

Maybe slasher pictures are not the best source for economic stats, but according tonight’s midnight movie at the IFC Center, Hong Kong’s cost of living has gone up fifteen percent since the Chinese handover, but income has only increased by a miserly one percent. That makes Hong Kong’s housing market even more prohibitively expensive than that of rent-control distorted Manhattan. It also leads to a series of spectacularly grisly murders in Pang Ho-Cheung’s Dream Home (trailer here), which begins its run tonight in the West Village.

Cheng Lai-sheung would kill for an apartment with a waterfront view—for real. She makes decent money as a telemarketer for a “predatory lender,” but not enough for the flat of her dreams. In a series of flashbacks, we come to understand how the traumatic events of her childhood created this obsessive need for her just-so home. After a great deal of heartache and a bit of cold-blooded sacrifice, Cheng finally has her dream apartment within her reach, only to have the sellers back out at the last minute, intending to hold out for a better office. Of course, there is nothing like a rash of killings in the building to drive down the asking price of units.

Dream’s frequent flashbacks and time-shifts can be quite confusing. However, the centerpiece of the film is a big, gory, extraordinarily messy sequence of killings that should have something to offend everyone. There is voluminous blood, nudity, and people slip-sliding through entrails. However, by genre standards, it is all quite impressively choreographed.

A far more ambitious production than its spatter patterns would suggest, Dream is visually striking thanks to the stylish work of cinematographer Yu Lik-wai, a frequent collaborator with Chinese art-house auteur Jia Zhangke. A popular Hong Kong actress, Josie Ho’s portrayal of Cheng’s descent into madness is also chillingly impressive. Indeed, Pang’s patience establishing character and the setting the scene for the inevitable horror show also sets it apart from inferior genre hack-work. Yet, there is no denying the blood and guts. Dream most definitely is what it is.

As a high-end gore-fest, Dream definitely delivers the goods for its intended hardcore cult audience. You know who you are. It screens at midnight tonight (2/18) and at odd times throughout the coming week.