Ǫ (2005)
Home Sweet Home

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 05/12/2007
Summary: a swing and a miss.

To borrow an expression from the American's game of baseball, Soi Cheang's Home Sweet Home is a swing and a miss. After a string of popular films from Diamond Hill [2000] to Love Battlefield [2004], Cheang falters with a project in a genre that he's been quite proficient and successful. The problem with this film is that the director only has about 45 or 50 minutes of good material that he has to stretch out with tedious footage of victims and protagonists chasing each other thru a bunch of high-rise apartment ventilation shafts.

The film starts off well enough and manages to hold this viewer's interest until about the time that Alex Fong Chung-Sun makes his exit from the scenario for an extended stay in the hospital. Once that happens, it is time for the fast forward button on your DVD remote. The political and socio-economic back story that this movie is built on gives this film some subversive subtexts that are easy and fun to read.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 04/22/2006
Summary: Better than your average horror movie

Shu Qi and Alex Fong move into a suspiciously nice apartment, and the door has barely closed behind them before visions of a frightening creature living in the elevator shafts and air ducts begin to haunt them. But, Shu Qi clearly has some psychological issues... maybe it's all in her head? When their son goes missing, that certainly seems to be the first conclusion that the cops come to.

HOME SWEET HOME starts off like so many other post-RING horror movies, and particularly brings to mind DARK WATER and THREE: GOING HOME. Cheang Pou-Soi has already proven himself to be smarter than most of his contemporaries, however, and many of the initial impressions the film creates will prove to be quite false. The film certainly falls within the post-RING genre (yes, it's a genre!), but unlike many or most other horror films, delivers a coherent and logical plot... well, mostly.

Shu Qi gives a fine performance - she does seem well suited to this type of role, and once more proves herself to have grown a lot since her early bimbo parts. Karena Lam's performance was a bit too much for me - it was admittedly a difficult role for any actress to fill, but it definitely felt too much like watching somebody act a lot of the time, which is of course the one thing that a good actor/actress must avoid! If anybody in the film deserves an award for their performance, though, it's young Tam Chun-Ho... not least because he was probably so traumatised by this film he'll never be able to work again. I seriously don't think the terror he so convincingly expresses in many scenes was being put on!

Although Home Sweet Home is definitely a cut above the average horror film, it's still somewhat constrained by the genre - which is not one of my favourites. Although credit must be given to Soi Cheang for certainly being the finest Hong Kong director in the genre, I do wish he would be given more work outside it - because I can't see any horror film ever impressing me as much as LOVE BATTLEFIELD did. But, I know the general public likes their horror films (for reasons that shall likely be a mystery to me forever) and at least it means a talented director can still get work in the depressed HK film industry!

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 12/27/2005

In Home Sweet Home, Hsu Chi and Alex Fong play a successful couple who have just moved into a swank new condo. As soon as they move in, a series of mysterious events occur, which culminates in the disappearance of their child. While trying to prove to the police (led by Lam Suet) that she's not crazy, Hsu uncovers a secret involving one of the building's former tenants (Karena Lam) that will lead her down a dark and twisted road in order to save her son.

At first blush, Home Sweet Home seems to be your standard Hong Kong "I see dead people" ghost movie. But director Cheang Pou Sai has crafted a fresh take on the genre. The story is suitably different enough to set apart from similar films, and the solid acting (especially from Karena Lam, who is unrecognizable for the most part behind some fairly hideous makeup) give the story (and film as a whole) some added weight. There's even a bit of gore as well.

Still, I was left a little underwhelmed by Home Sweet Home. I can't exactly put my finger on exactly why -- perhaps I've just seen too many HK horror movies lately and I've become a bit too jaded towards the genre. Even so, most HK horror/suspense fans should have a pretty good time with this entry, even if this particular reviewer didn't find it all that scary.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: LisaM
Date: 12/19/2005
Summary: Pou-soi Cheang proves HK horror lives

With this marvelous - and genuinely frightening - film, director Pou-soi Cheang gives us his best since 2000's DIAMOND HILL (which HOME SWEET HOME shares several themes with). The always-watchable Shu Qi stars as an overprotective mother whose young son is kidnapped by the mutilated madwoman (Karena Lam) who lives in her highrise housing complex's airducts and elevator shafts. After the maniac sends the boy's father (Alex Fong) to the hospital, it comes down to the two mothers fighting over possession of the tiny victim.

HOME SWEET HOME isn't just full of disturbing images (and some fine jolts), it also has a genuine social conscience: In Szeto Kam-yuen's wonderful screenplay, the madwoman is a former squatter, and even our protagonist is fighting the police and her neighbors every step of the way. Economic depression, useless authority figures and even the psychology of mental illness are all dealt with here, and it's a real pleasure to experience a modern horror film that (like last year's solid KOMA, also co-starring Lam) centers not only on two adults, but two adult women.

Both lead actresses turn in superb performances, and Lam is particularly good in a very physically demanding role, conveying her character's broken body and tortured spirit. It's also worth noting the amazing performance of the child actor who plays the innocent victim - he portrays terror and confusion better than nearly any adult actor of recent memory.

Even HOME SWEET HOME's score is exceptional, and puts to shame most other recent scores from much bigger budgeted Hollywood films. After enduring a summer of substandard teen horror films from the American movie machine, it's a relief to find this little horror gem from Hong Kong.

Reviewer Score: 9