Coffin Homes review: Horror comedy tackles Hong Kong's housing problem

·2-min read
Paul Che as the old resident ghoul in Coffin Homes. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)
Paul Che as the old resident ghoul in Coffin Homes. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)

Length: 110 minutes
Director: Fruit Chan
Cast: Wong You-nam, Paul Che, Tai Bo, Cheung Tat-ming, Rachel Lee, Susan Shaw
Language: Mandarin with English and Chinese subtitles

In theatres 26 August (Singapore)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Coffin Homes is a black comedy that, through three seemingly unrelated stories, unveils the housing problems in Hong Kong due to the lack of space and exorbitant property prices. In the opening scene, director Fruit Chan already lays out the dark humour that will follow throughout the whole film.

Chan is known for reflecting Hong Kong's societal issues in his films, and Coffin Homes is no exception. The film title quite literally pokes fun at a type of residence in Hong Kong, where many low-income tenants squeeze into an apartment with poor living conditions. Apart from exploring how the poor exploit the poor in such housing, Coffin Homes also throws light on how the rich get richer in the real estate market.

However, the flow of events can be confusing, with no apparent build-up or climax. It may even cause you to question what the film is trying to illustrate. In a filler-like scene, the humans and ghosts are just mindlessly killing each other without adding value to the plot. Even if the three stories eventually do come together as one, it is still regrettably rather weak storytelling.

Ironically, though there are many people in need of proper housing, there are also many vacant apartments — often beyond the means of the poor. In addressing this issue, the ending suggests a win-win situation, although it may not be legally feasible in real life.

Although the horror film touches on ghosts and haunted houses, due to the slapstick comedy, it is often more ridiculous than scary. The special effects makeup, especially for the old resident ghoul (Paul Che), is something to look out for. The performance of Li Hoi-lam as the ghost of a kid named Keung is also unexpectedly good. The story of how Keung died may even make you feel a tinge of melancholy.

While it is commendable that Coffin Homes is trying to raise some important societal issues, it could have been a better and more impactful film with a more coherent and substantial storyline.

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