Title: Dream House
Directed By: Jim Sheridan
Starring: Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz, Elias Koteas, Marton Csokas, Taylor Geare, Claire Geare, Rachel Fox
Movies like Dream House are simply amazing in the worst ways possible. With the slew of films that go into development to never see the green light, how does a script like this slip through rounds and rounds of coverage and scrutiny? Then, how does an irrational story like this attract such top-notch talent like Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz? Worst of all, who thought it’d be worth it to release Dream House in theaters rather than just attempt to tuck it away on a DVD shelf? Someone delivered the dismal word to Showbiz411 back in July and apparently their source was correct, “The movie is unrelease-able.”
Will Atenton (Craig) opts to leave his big city job behind to head out to a quaint suburban neighborhood with his loving wife, Libby (Weisz), and two daughters, Trish and Dee Dee (Taylor and Claire Geare). They shack up in what’s seemingly a dream house, but soon discover their humble abode has a dark past. Five years ago, Peter Ward brutally murdered his wife and children in this very home.
When news of their home’s dismal reputation spooks Libby and the girls, Will takes it upon himself to investigate. A group of teenagers hiding out in their basement recalling the legend of Peter Ward are one thing, but when Will suspects a mysterious visitor is actually Ward, he’s got no choice but to dig even deeper and, in the process, Will winds up discovering quite a bit about himself, too.
Is that getting into spoiler territory? Considering the film’s trailer gives away a major plot twist, how could it be? The Dream House trailer considerably ruins the first half of the film. From the moment the piece begins, not only do we know where the story’s going courtesy of the promotion material, but director Jim Sheridan turns up the spookiness to the max, dropping every hint imaginable that something evil is on the horizon.
Thanks to the force-fed eeriness, nothing is quite scary at all. Things go bump in the night and shadowy figures lurk outside, and every time Sheridan makes an attempt at a scare, even the cheap ones, you can see it coming minutes away. Even if Sheridan manages to tone down the foreshadowing and the editors manage to hit the proper scare beats, Dream House’s first half is rendered meaningless as the trailer spoils the climax.
The second half, on the other hand, packs a few twists you won’t see coming. However, just because they’re able to catch you off guard, doesn’t make them valid. The second half of Dream House trips over itself incessantly. Secondary characters pop up and claim importance with absolutely zero character development. Naomi Watts’ Ann Patterson is as one-dimensional as they come and is dependent on a weak connection to Will while Elias Koteas is reduced to mere shadow lurking.
However, that’s not to say the acting in Dream House is subpar. In fact, it’s almost painful to watch the film because the cast is clearly so invested in the material. It’s no surprise that Craig and Weisz share a great deal of chemistry and both Taylor and Claire Geare are incredibly talented young actresses. But still, no matter how hard everyone tries to sell this story, the shoddy structure and nonsensical chain of events is unredeemable.
Dream House can’t even pull it together technically. The color palette is far too washed out and the shot composition is thoughtless. There’s one particularly awkward setup during which Craig talks to two men sitting at a diner bar. The men never turn to talk to Craig, leaving us with a strange frame in which three men are having a conversation with each other, but basically talking to the camera. The editors also don’t seem to know what to do with the footage. Isn’t it common knowledge that you need to see a character deliberately looking around before throwing in a POV shot? (Well, unless there’s a mysterious slasher stalking a victim in the woods, but that’s not the case here.)
Sloppy filmmaking, sloppy writing and sloppy editing. It’s almost too bad the acting isn’t as bad as the rest of the film. At least then the talented cast wouldn’t come across as silly for having given their all to a dead end project.