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April 27, 2017

Wai dor lei ah yut ho

by Franz Patrick


Wai dor lei ah yut ho (2010)
★ / ★★★★

Sheung (Josie Ho) holds two jobs and she hopes to save enough money to purchase a high-rise apartment that overlooks the ocean. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that her obsession to buy that specific apartment stems from a childhood promise to her parents. We learn, too, that Sheung is willing to do whatever it takes to get that space—and it includes murder.

Directed by Ho-Cheung Pang, “Dream Home” relies on the brutality of the murders to entertain but we should realize that we deserve more than violence and bloodshed. On one level, it asks us to consider Sheung’s circumstance as an extreme that results from a highly competitive housing market in Hong Kong. When the screenplay by Ho-Cheung Pang, Kwok Cheung Tsang and Chi-Man Wan summons numbers to communicate H.K.’s economic state, it is effective because we realize that Sheung is and will always be a slave to the system. And maybe she has reason to be angry.

At the same time, the picture is a horror film and it must be evaluated in terms of the elements expected from the genre. People who enjoy creative kills are likely to get a kick out of the film. There are a few instances when I caught myself feeling impressed, particularly one that involves a pregnant woman. One would think that just because she is obviously with child, the material might go easier on her. On the contrary, her scene is most memorable because she is killed in an especially gruesome fashion.

But there are moments that are doubtful. I never once believed that Sheung could overpower any of her victims who happen to be men. While understandable that she is able to get the initial upper hand because the element of surprise is almost always on her side, it is a mistake of the screenplay to show these men being able turn the tables on her seconds before they meet their fates. As a result, there is an element of unintentional humor which completely erases whatever tension is earned just minutes prior.

The flashbacks do nothing other than to provide background information. I suppose the point is for us to understand the main character’s motivations but the jumps in time—forward and backward—are not carefully executed. It comes off rather sloppy and so the dramatic scenes are not at all convincing. Thus, we feel neither sympathy nor remorse for Sheung. Her actions are so cold and brutal that not once do we see her as a person. She remains a symbol of a person who wishes to move up in life but is stuck because nothing appears to be within her control.

Eventually, I found “Wai dor lei ah yut ho” to be highly repetitive in structure and theme. As out of the box as some of the kills are, I grew bored by the character who is a walking boredom. Given its subject matter, it needed more of a satirical slant to really work as a horror-comedy with a certain truth to impart. Instead, what we are given is a very dilute sort-of slasher flick that stumbles upon good ideas accidentally.

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