Friday, April 30, 2010

Tribeca ’10: Dream Home

Maybe slasher pictures are not the best source for economic stats, but according to a Cinemania selection at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, 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 screens during this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Cheng Lai-sheung would kill for an apartment with a waterfront view—seriously. 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 more ambitious production than its splatter 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 getting around its blood and guts. Dream most definitely is what it is.

As a high-end gore-fest, Dream will definitely appeal to a particular die-hard audience. You know who you are. It screens again tonight (4/30) during the Tribeca Film festival.