Dream House may look like just another slasher flick, with all the blood, gore, and paper-thin characters you’d expect, but it’s actually a film with an important social message! See, it seeks to expose how the subprime mortgage crisis is affecting people’s lives all over the globe. No, that’s not a joke. It’s very concerned by the problem, which is prevalent even in Hong Kong, where tiny apartments regularly cost more than the average salary can afford.
But yes, it’s also a slasher film, and just about as goofy and cliched as you’d expect.
The film revolves around Cheng Lai-sheung, a young telemarketer who’s looking to move into a new apartment. She spends most of her time looking after her younger brother and caring for her sick father, and is a bit stretched out by everything. The bills are piling in but she’s looking to invest in her future and finally get a place of her own.
She’s also a mass murderer.
In the very first scene we see her killing a security guard and the the inhabitants of an apartment building, and the film jumps back between her current murderous rampage and the events that led up to it. It effortlessly kills any sort of suspense for the ending and completely ruins the pace of the film, as it spends far too much of its running time on slow and boring childhood (“origin”) scenes. What’s worse, those scenes just bludgeon you over the head with the message of the film, as we see a childhood friend of hers lose his home and have to move away, her family struggling to pay rent, etc.
The slasher portions almost make it work. It’s a bit interesting to see a slasher film that tries to explain the killer’s actions and almost sympathize with her, but it also means that there are no real scares, no fear of the unknown. It does actually has some really good gore (which is actually enhanced by decent CGI, for once) and a few truly disturbing, almost Grand Guignol scenes. The problem is that like the message of the film it’s played so heavy-handed that you’ll likely be laughing throughout.
It’s also sad to see that they couldn’t get past the usual slasher cliches. The majority of her victims are typical slasher film fodder- a group of kids partying and doing drugs and having sex. The film takes only a few minutes to introduce them before starting to dispatch them in bloody fashion, right after some quite highbrow and topical humor (one of the guys enters the apartment and says “Whaaazzuuup?”, for example.)
Dream Home will likely only be of interest to horror fans, but it threatens to turn away its core audience by not doing anything new. It certainly isn’t the first horror film with a social message and it’s trying so very hard to be different, but it ultimately ends up falling back into the stereotypes of the genre.
Dream Home played at the Tribeca Film Festival and will hit dvd sometime this summer. Check the official site for more.