As the opening voiceover of Ho Cheuk-Tin’s darkly comic farce Over My Dead Body (死屍死時四十四) points out, the world is already quite an absurd place. A lot of us know that it’s absurd, but somehow we just roll with it without really asking why. If you stop to think about it, it really is absurd to spend every waking minute scrabbling for money to pay a mortgage on a flat you barely occupy because you’re always at work, but at least it’s less absurd than living with the constant uncertainly of arbitrary rent rises and sudden eviction. 

At least that’s the way it’s always seemed to the residents of 14A Seaside Heights, a swanky apartment block with all the mod cons and a touch of European sophistication. Technically the flat is owned by Ms. So (Teresa Mo Sun-Kwan), though home to daughter and son-in-law Yana (Jennifer Yu Heung-Ying) and Ming (Wong Yau-Nam) plus their small daughter Yoyo and Yana’s paranoid brother Kingston (Alan Yeung Wai-Leun) who is in the process of launching a “brand” selling a special “stealth suit” that can make you invisible to surveillance cameras. The obvious fact is, the flat is far too small for all these people and Ming and Yana want to move out not least so they stop having to sneak around like teenagers to get a little personal time. 

They have each, however, suffered amid the precarities of the post-pandemic economy with Yana losing her job as an air hostess when the airline she worked for went bust, while Ming’s removals business has taken a serious hit and is unlikely to recover as Mrs So points out with so many people leaving Hong Kong due to the ongoing political uncertainty. The young couple propose mortgaging Mrs. So’s flat for the downpayment on their own which they’d be paying a second mortgage on, which is why it’s incredibly bad news when they discover the naked corpse of a random man propped up against their door. 

The film plays with a minor pun in which the word for male corpse sounds like that for “Blue Ribbon”, a name for pro-government supporters during in the protests, the implication being you wouldn’t want one of those turning up on your doorstep either. In any case, any idea of calling the police or an ambulance is quickly abandoned on realising the flat would become known as a “murder house” and dramatically drop in value. The only thing to do is drag the unfortunate man to a neighbour’s door instead and let them deal with it. This goes about as well as could be expected with the whole floor eventually involved in the plan to move the body until they eventually hit on the idea of dumping it on a rundown social housing estate where people often go to commit suicide because no one’s going to notice one more corpse and no one owns those flats anyway so it doesn’t really matter if they ruin their property value. 

It is an incredibly dark and cynical sense of humour, but in its own cheerfully absurd in all the farcical shenanigans trying to remove the body from the building with no one really stopping to ask how it got there in the first place beyond connecting it with the mad streaker the security guard has been desperately trying to catch. Ho’s previous film, stylish true crime drama The Sparring Partner, had similarly had an absurdist vein of dark comedy running underneath it but Over My Dead Body does eventually rediscover a sense of hope if only in irony as it leans in to a New Year comedy-style celebration of family and community as the neighbours find themselves having to work together to protect their property investments. Even the materialistic Mrs So is forced to reflect that actually she’s lucky to be able to feel tired and frustrated, giving her blessing to her daughter and son-in-law to move out, while they in turn reflect that maybe it’s not that bad if they have to stay a little longer. It might seem like an overly saccharine conclusion for a biting satire about the rabid capitalism of a status obsessed, consumerist society but then again as an equally cynical ironic twist reveals maybe the residents are the ones who haven’t quite woken up despite their newfound solidarity. 

Over My Dead Body opens in UK cinemas on April 21 courtesy of CineAsia.

UK trailer (Traditional Chinese / English subtitles)

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