鬼同你住 (Gwai Tung Nei Jyu)
Hong Kong, 2021, 107’, Cantonese
Directed by: Fruit Chan
Script: Fruit Chan
Photography (color): Chan Ka-shun
Editing: Tin Sub-fat (Fruit Chan)
Art Direction: Leung Tsz-yin
Producer: Fruit Chan
Cast: Wong You-nam (Jimmy Lam), Tai Bo (Cheung), Paul Che (a.k.a. Paul Carr) (butcher ghost), Loletta Lee (Wai-shan), Susan Shaw (Mother Leung), Adora Pagara Ecat (Amy), Bonnie Ngai (Wai-ling), Teresa Mak (Wai-yee), Chelffy Yau (Lily Wong), Ai Wai (Yuen's boss), Cheung Tat-ming (noodle-shop boss)
Date of First Release in Territory: August 19th, 2021
Savage satire comes with ghosts and cartoonish violence in Fruit Chan’s Coffin Homes, a gruesome set of horror tales with Hong Kong’s astronomically priced housing market as the backdrop.
A trio of stories are woven together to plumb the depths of the city’s property crisis. In the first, staged mainly at an old mansion on a huge plot of land, family members gather to divide the spoils upon a 98-year-old matriarch’s death. After a horrendous turn of events, one daughter and the family’s domestic helper have bodies to dispose of. In the second, property agent Jimmy Lam (Wong You-nam) is secretly living in a “death flat” – an apartment that had someone die in it and is therefore shunned by customers – when the home’s resident ghoul (Paul Che) appears and debt troubles hit. And finally there’s the subdivided flat where slumlord Cheung (Tai Bo) is trying to squeeze more rent out of his crummy premises. His new trick is reworking the layout to cram in 80-square-foot cubicles for lease at HK$4,888 (€520) per month, and he’s getting bugged by the ghost of a kid too.
Coffin Homes delivers horror comedy, but Fruit Chan’s take on the Hong Kong housing market reflects serious issues. In the film, greedy landlords are called out for splitting homes into tiny flats, property agents and their associates are marked as an unscrupulous mob, and property firms are seen staying one step ahead of the government, at one point hatching a plan to counter a proposed vacancy tax as developers would rather keep flats unsold while prices keep rising. Regular people are shown being squeezed, like a noodle-shop boss who cuts portions after a rent hike. And opportunists flipping properties come under fire too, even if their kind are viewed as quintessential Hong Kong people (“You’re not a Hongkonger if you don’t speculate,” goes one line).
Chan’s film is most biting in its picture of the low end of the market, in which rental cage homes the size of a bed have been superseded by tiny solid-walled spaces (or “coffin cubicles”), while nano flats – some no bigger than a parking space – are popping up in the thousands at exorbitant prices. When told nano flats are the “third generation of poverty homes,” even Cheung despairs, saying, “Pearl of the Orient? More like Bowel to me!”
Chan had taken jabs against the property business in his previous film The Abortionist (2019), and this time he lunges at it with full force. The satire is unrelenting, and the filmmakers go bananas with the horror. An early death scene features a crazy escalation of weapons as people strike each other with knives, barbecue forks and axes. And later stabbings and dismemberment come with great sprays of blood, as if the crew took cues from Monty Python’s “Salad Days” sketch. Traditional Hong Kong horror keys in too, with sights like extending limbs and an appearance by the underworld’s Ghost King. Coffin Homes’ lead cast including Wong You-nam, Tai Bo and Loletta Lee capably channel dark and grisly material, and veteran Paul Che is especially distinctive as the ghost of a butcher.
Squeamish viewers could do with a blood-and-guts alert for Chan’s movie – this is, after all, the type of film that proudly sports lines like “Stop! Why are you biting my intestines?!” But just as unpleasant is Coffin Homes’ real-life background: a property-market mess that burdens many Hongkongers day after day, year after year.
Fruit Chan was born in 1959 in Guangzhou and grew up in Hong Kong. After entering the film industry in the early 1980s as an assistant director, Chan directed his first feature in Finale in Blood (1993) and later made a splash with the low-budget Made in Hong Kong (1997). Chan subsequently drew acclaim with films including The Longest Summer (1998), Durian, Durian (2000), Hollywood Hong Kong (2001) and Dumplings: Three...Extremes (2004). Chan has been active as a producer and a director of shorts in addition to helming feature films.
1993 – Finale in Blood
1997 – Made in Hong Kong
1999 – Little Cheung
2000 – Durian, Durian
2001 – Hollywood Hong Kong
2004 – Dumplings: Three...Extremes
2014 – The Midnight After
2018 – Three Husbands
2019 – The Abortionist
2021 – Coffin Homes