Here are Five Things that I hope will convince you take a punt and turn out for what I think is one of the year's best films.
1. Josie Ho
The star of Dream Home is Josie Ho, lately cast in Steven Soderbergh's globetrotting virus thriller, Contagion. There, she'll be part of an ensemble studded with international A-listers, but here she has an awful lot of the screen time to herself. Thankfully, she's an easy, magnetic presence and manages to carry some very contrasting scenes with equal aplomb.
Ms. Ho's character is a young professional in Hong Kong at the time of an extreme property boom. She's looking for somewhere to live but finds that property prices are already at arms length and quickly racing away from her. It's a relatable scenario, and she's a relatable face to put to it. The film owes Ms. Ho a good deal.
2. It's not your typical slasher film
At heart, Dream Home is a satire about run away housing markets and the victims of economic pressure, but it's dressed as a character piece and armed to the teeth like a slasher film.
Most of the tropes of the typical hack-and-flay picture are present, but bent out of shape, right down to how the actual slashing is portrayed on screen. Attacks fall short realistically, weapons miss their targets and glance off of the wall, everything is grunty and gaspy and fleshy and solid.
Here's an early example: a security guard is being throttled with a plastic tie-cord. He attempts to cut himself free with a Stanley knife, but does some nasty damage to his own neck in the meantime. It isn't overplayed, but it is the first of the film's many messy, disordered moments, each of them stepping forward from the cleanly choreographed killings of the genre at large into something more scrambled and unpredictable, and as a result more immediate and engaging, and occasionally even novel.
3. It's tightly woven and surprising
The balance between stalk-and-slash and character scenes is crated through a divided structure of two clear halves. On the one hand we see the sequence of events, running back for some years, that will eventually bring our home-hunting protagonist to an apartment block on the night of some brutal killings; on the other, we see the killings unfold as the slasher makes their way into the building and heads for their Dream Home of the title.
Not everything in Dream Home is obvious from the get-go. Indeed, the identity of the killer is, ostensibly, a secret for a reel or so.
Later surprises then involve the pay off of small details in unexpected and, oftentimes, very sweet ways. It would be a crime to reveal too much. Many moments that would appear to be throwaway or arbitrary are eventually revealed to be part of a bigger picture, and each of the little reveals is one more small satisfaction on the film's route to its resonant conclusion.
Ho-Cheung's camera decisions are almost uniformly well judged and the editing is never less than purposeful and clean.
4. The time and place are specific but well realised
I've never been to Hong Kong, much less the recent-but-now-passed Hong Kong of Dream Home. The film is very specific in its details of time and place, most obviously in the title cards that open the film with concrete information on property prices and spiralling economic situations. There's a very detailed context for this story, and it's very specifically realised but the themes beneath the surface are universal. I'm always looking for this combination of vivid world building and widespread resonance, and it's something Dream Home excels at.
5. Enough talk, just look
Here's a clip from the film. Don't watch if you're afraid of spoilers, because it contains one, and do be aware that it was chosen to promote the film to as wide an audience as possible, so you might argue that it's a little misrepresentative. Nonetheless, I think it's a pretty good little sample.
Dream Home opens today in the following UK cinemas:
Cineworld Shaftesbury Avenue
Vue Shepherds Bush
Moviehouse, York Gate, Belfast