‘Dream Home’ is Dark, Disturbing, and Brutal [The Overlook Motel]
Ho-Cheung Pang’s slasher film is as grotesque as it is brilliant.
Welcome to The Overlook Motel, a place where under-seen and unappreciated films are given their moment in the spotlight. I hope you enjoy your stay here and find the accommodations to be suitable. Now, please take a seat and make yourself comfortable, I have some misbehaving guests to ‘correct’.
On this installment of The Overlook Motel, I will be looking back on the dark and visceral slasher, Dream Home (not to be confused with the similarly titled Daniel Craig movie of a similar vintage). Dream Home is shocking, darkly comedic, and serves as a scathing indictment of the modern housing market. It’s raw, brutal, and unflinching, so, buckle up!
Cheng Lai is a woman on a mission. Her goal is to purchase a condo in a high-rise with a view of the ocean. Being a resourceful gal, Cheng Lai realizes she can drive property values down to her price range if she stages a murder spree in the building she set her sights on. One must give her props for ingenuity.
Dream Home is nothing if not visceral. The effects are horrifying and almost too much to take in at times. But the ultra-violent acts pair well with the picture’s unflinching tone. The violence is so relentless that I start to feel like an unwilling participant in the chaos unfolding onscreen. And that only adds to the intensity of the experience.
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The vicious nature of the film really gets under my skin. Director Ho-Cheung Pang continuously assaults the audience with uncomfortable imagery, which parallels the cutthroat nature of the housing market. In turn, this leaves the viewer in a vulnerable place for the next attack. Watching the film is meant to be uncomfortable. But not simply for the sake of being gritty and subversive. This flick is as effective as it is because of the way it is likely to make the audience feel. It leaves me wrecked every time I watch it. And it stays with me long after the credits roll.
Cheng Lai’s massacre unfolds onscreen split into small pieces, rather than all at once. And that makes it even harder to sit through. If her rampage were shown in one sequence, it would still be brutal but probably wouldn’t have the same impact. Instead, her relentless exploits are spaced out throughout the film and I find that even more horrifying than watching it unfold in a single scene.
When combined with a timeline that jumps back and forth, the effect is dizzying and likely to keep the viewer squarely off balance. Which is right where director Ho-Cheung Pang wants us.
Brutality aside, the film also has a dark, wicked sense of humor. The flick’s comedic moments are often so bleak and so shocking that it feels inappropriate to laugh. But I’m never sure quite what else to do.
Dream Home serves up great performances across the board. But the real standout effort is Josie Ho as Cheng Lai. There is a duality to the way she brings the character to life. Cheng Lai is incredibly hardworking and fiercely loyal to her family. And in that sense, she is a relatable lead. But the cold-blooded nature of her crimes is in stark contrast to her more approachable side. Cheng Lai flips the switch and becomes almost unrecognizable. She is calculating, remorseless, and singularly focused on bloodshed. The way she can effortlessly transition between the two extremes makes for a terrifying and unpredictable viewing experience.
If you haven’t had the occasion to check out Dream Home, I hope I have convinced you to give it a look. As of the publication of this post, the film is streaming on Shudder. If you opt to check it out, don’t forget to let us know your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.