Wide World of Horror: ‘Wai dor lei ah yut ho’
Wai dor lei ah yut ho (Dream Home)
Screenplay by Ho-Cheung Pang, Kwok Cheung Tsang, & Chi-Man Wan
Directed by Ho-Cheung Pang
Hong Kong, 2010
Wai dor lei ah yut ho comes out of the gates with its guns blazing. The film impressively sets up its premise and spends its first twenty minutes establishing how strong of a premise the film is working with. The camera has a lot to do with how impressive the first twenty minutes of the film are. The high rises look especially high, and the people look especially little. There’s one impressive shot where we see a gaggle of office workers huddled together on a typical outside break. The camera films them from underneath, accentuating how tiny they are in comparison to the high rises that dominate their lives. The office workers are talking as if what they do in life will matter, but against the enormity of the high rises that surround them how could anything they do matter?
The first murder is another impressive bit of filmmaking from Ho-Cheung Pang. The murder that takes place is an allegory for the world that our lead character is stuck in. There’s a smidge of the over the top nature that will follow in the film, but even that is kept somewhat in check. Our lead character has to sneak her way into the life she wants, and of course she meets resistance. Rather than let her in a symbol of those who wish to keep her out chooses to sacrifice himself. Wai dor lei ah yut ho is never impresses as much as it does in its opening twenty minutes.
Sustaining a strong opening is hard for the best of films to do. For the films that aren’t quite up to par, there’s no hope to sustain a strong opening. It becomes very clear in but a few minutes after its strong opening that Wai dor lei ah yut ho is not a film that is going to sustain. The screenplay introduces a troublesome filmmaking technique in the form of a fractured narrative approach that never works. Meanwhile, the horror elements of the film quickly turn from powerfully effective to laughably overblown. A strong opening is quickly tossed out the window in favor of ineffective schlock and melodrama.
The opening murder scene is the only moment in the film when the slasher/intruder approach works in Wai dor lei ah yut ho. Outside of that moment the kills take on a ridiculous manner that undercuts the seriousness that said kills are being given by the screenplay. How can anyone take a movie seriously when a person can live for close to an hour with their guts spread all over the floor? If the approach of Wai dor lei ah yut ho were one of camp then its ridiculousness would have been much easier to forgive. Sadly, Wai dor lei ah yut ho doesn’t want to be ridiculous. It is a dreadfully serious film, very much in disagreement with its violence.
There’s a lot of positive buzz floating around about Wai dor lei ah yut ho. That buzz is misplaced, unless those supplying the buzz only watched the first twenty minutes and skipped the rest of the film. Wai dor lei ah yut ho had tremendous potential, but it squandered all of its potential on bad choices. It doesn’t matter how gnarly the kills are, there’s no backbone to support said kills. Misfiring on all cylinders, Wai dor lei ah yut ho does a disservice to its global economic message and stalls before it even reaches the finish line.