In this high-priced Hong Kong apartment block someone slips into the building just as one of the residents opens the front door to leave, and makes their way to the security guard's office. The guard is asleep because nothing much ever happens there, but tonight will be an exception as he doesn't notice the figure slipping a plastic chord around his neck and then suddenly pulling it tight. He cannot breathe, and flails around on the floor trying to stop from being strangled, grabbing a knife from the toolbox and cutting away at his neck...
So begins a film that by all rights should have been a cheerfully black comedy, except that the filmmakers, led by co-writer and director Pang Ho-Cheung, appeared to have regarded this with a deadly serious intent. That's not to say there were no laughs, as it does grow fairly ridiculous, but for the larger part of the running time this was not a horror comedy featuring the splatter slapstick that became fashionable in the eighties. What they really wished to impart was the dire situation of Hong Kong's housing market, and our guide through that was a bank worker who spends all her time phoning up customers to offer them loans.
It's true to say that this woman, Lai-Sheung Cheng (Josie Ho), is unfulfilled by her job - make that jobs, because to keep up with her lifestyle, which is nevertheless fairly modest, she must hold down more than one. We're in the territory of modern life provoking a terrible reaction in the lead character, a concept that came into its own in the nineties from works like Safe to Falling Down, all stories which detailed the human environment turning their leads into heaps of neuroses. In all those cases, there was a message about how hard it was to get by these days without collapsing into a pile of tics, and that social commentary is very much to the fore here.
In some of those tales the protagonist will snap and decide to take a few people with them on their road to hell, and so it was in Dream Home. We cut between Sheung's present, where she's launching a one-woman assault on the residents of the block she has invaded, and the points in her life that have brought her to this state of affairs. Ho makes a believable personality out of what could have been your typical gore-soaked avenger, an example this owes something to, but reinforced with emotional scenes of her backed into a corner by life until she lashes out. She has coveted this apartment since she was a little girl, and having seen the damage the property developers and banks can do she has had enough.
The blanks are filled in by those flashbacks, even reaching back to her childhood, but the way she lives now is pretty miserable even if she does manage to get that home she has set her heart upon, with a boyfriend who is already married and the only friends the ones she sees in work, not having the time or money to socialise. Therefore we're meant to accept that her desperation has led her to such extreme measures, but even then it's a little hard to be convinced that she'd be transformed into a raging psychopath and murder so many people just to get her way. The method of her madness is so over the top that these scenes where the blood flows are absurd, where we're supposed to believe that Sheung has the strength to ram knives through bodies and at one point smash a toilet bowl with a woman's head. The film does make sure that you are aware this is no empty parade of violent scenes for their own sake and there is a moral, but you pretty much get the idea after the first half hour. Music by Gabriele Roberto.