Director: Jim Sheridan
Stars: Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts
Plot: A family moves into their seemingly idyllic new home, but discover that a brutal murder took place involving the previous occupants.
We all love a fantastic plot twist in a film. Being led down the garden path into completely believing that one particular scenario exists, only for the rug to be pulled from underneath us at the end is supremely masochistically fascinating, if done correctly. Such classics as The Planet of the Apes (1968), The Usual Suspects (1995) and The Others (2001) all give subtle clues as to their denouement, but only reveal their hand in the most shocking ways possible. Dream House has a secret of its own, but actually dumps its revelation around halfway through, but can such a film maintain its suspense thereafter by expecting us to swallow another twist towards the end?
Will Atenton (Craig) moves into a new house with his wife Libby (Weisz) and their two daughters Trish (Taylor Geare) and Dee Dee (Claire Geare), giving up his job as an editor to spend more time with his family. For a time, they live quite happily there until the children start seeing a mysterious man watching them from the front yard. Will and Libby learn that something terrible happened to the previous owners – the father, Peter Ward, went mad and murdered his family but was eventually let off through lack of evidence. Will comes to the conclusion that Peter has returned to the area and is now stalking his family for whatever reason. Meanwhile his neighbour Ann Patterson (Watts) is locked in a custody battle with her ex husband Jack (Marton Csokas) over their daughter Chloe (Rachel Fox). Will goes to see Ann to discover more about Peter Ward but is given a frosty reception – when he visits the local psychiatric hospital to find him, his whole world is turned upside-down.
The plot of Dream House then delivers its coup de grâce all too early and it would be impossible to describe the storyline any further without spoilers. Suffice to say it is so ridiculous, that it would be a waste of time even giving it column inches here. The premise and the movie poster make this look for all the world like a horror film, but as the plot is unravelled, it becomes clear that there is more TV movie-style drama than anything else. There has been a great deal of controversy over film trailers giving everything away, with Cabin in the Woods (2012) being a primary case in point. The trailer for Dream House reveals so much that you may as well not bother watching it, lest you are intrigued by what the actual finale has to offer – not much by the way, in case you were wondering. The promotional interviews given by Daniel Craig and Naomi Watts in particular just illustrate how difficult it is to convey the far-fetched plot – you must sympathise with Craig who can only go over the film’s first half an hour again and again.
On the plus side, there is good chemistry between Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz as Will and Libby – the two became a real-life couple on set and show Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart how it’s done. Naomi Watts provides great support and there’s also a good performance from Rachel Fox as her on-screen daughter. Sadly, these are the only positives from what is a decidedly drab affair. David Loucka will probably find it difficult getting work in Hollywood after his pretty awful screenplay, which is supposed to emulate a certain Martin Scorsese film, but is instead a very pale imitation. To his credit though, before we learn the awful truth, the tension is built up well, even if it all suddenly comes crashing down around our ears. Morgan Creek should be also held accountable – pairing aesthetically crowd-pleasing Craig and Weisz together in a film does not a dream movie make.
Dream House might have given Daniel Craig a break from playing 007 and an excuse to grow out his blonde fop (obligatory for his family man characters), but you wonder if the pay cheque was worth this blot on his CV. Weisz and Watts should also know better – when you’re sent a script, it’s always a good idea to ask for a second opinion.