Every November, I and a bunch of friends gather together for one joyous occasion. This occasion is now known as INAFFF, although it wasn't always known as that. Being a thrill-seeker that I am, I was more than thrilled when I first learn about SCREAMFEST four years ago. I immediately got all my friends together for a movie marathon in the horror film festival. Back then, all we had were festivals for pretentious foreign movies. So, this festival, first in Jakarta, was like a shining beacon of hope to me. And boy, did we have a lot of fun. It made us yell, scream, and scared shitless, but it also got us to laugh together. We've been going back ever since the first year and it has become an annual ritual for us. Now in its fourth year, INAFFF is going stronger than ever and bringing more thrills and fun to a wider audience.
In INAFFF there is always this one special screening which you can buy the tickets to but they don't tell you what the movie is. My experiences with these Surprise Movies in the past have been pleasant. The first year, we had PATHOLOGY as the surprise movie. For second, COMING SOON, which was the best in my opinion. And then PARANORMAL ACTIVITY for the third. This year, we had the Hong-Kong horror, DREAM HOME. The tickets were sold out within the first three hours and the committee had to get the venue to let them have another screening in a second studio. The anticipation was high and fortunately, the movie didn't disappoint.
The basic premise of DREAM HOME was of a girl finds a flat, fell in love with it, wanna buy it, but got screwed over by the seller, so she went on a murderous spree of the flat residences to get the asking price for the flat reduced. The movie was great because it didn't fall into the trappings of cliched gory slasher flicks with cheap scares and thrills. Instead the movie built the tension by making the protagonist struggled for a successful kill. Make no mistake, our protagonist was just your normal average-sized everyday girl (but then again normal girl wouldn't be killing people :p) so it took some effort for her to kill the victims. She wasn't some kind of supernatural creature or a towering 6 feet giant with a hockey mask. Our protagonist even got knocked over several times and in the process it made us root for her even more to triumph and successfully mangle, maim, and slice open all of her victims (maybe it's just me... i don't know :p). Some of the killings were creative and varied. Strangling with cable ties, plastic bag suffocation, eyes popping out, impalement, and mutilated genital.
Even more wonderful was that the movie managed to sneak in one or two socially relevance issues of today's time like the crashing housing market, predatory real estate developer, and the foreign domestic workers (the humor of the last one is reserved for Indonesian only). Josie Ho as the lead gave an all-around solid performance as a murderess who found herself pitted between losing everything she has worked so hard for and taking drastic measures to keep her dream alive. The scene where she burnt a paper house to grant her mother's soul a place in the after life was heart breaking and I found myself sympathizing with her character from then on. Another props should be given to the director, Ho-Cheung Pang, for using two intertwining time-lines to tell the stories of the murder acts and how our protagonist arrived to that point. It made for a riveting watch reaching to the powerful climax.
DREAM HOME is an emotionally complex movie that didn't let itself forget to pack the punch when it came to delivering blood, gore, and the 'ick' factor in slasher flick. It successfully elevated itself above the graveyard that is filled with poorly conceived '80s slasher flick remakes and therefore lending the movie a "must-watch" label and two thumbs up from me.