DREAM HOUSE Review

You know how you wish some stories would have been told differently? Whether it be in tone or structure, you can see the hint of an intriguing plot and interesting characters in it and what might have made this appealing to actors and a director on the page? Well, "Dream House" is about the epitome of that. For the first half hour or so I really began to wonder what such credible actors as Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and Naomi Watts saw in such material. Not to mention the waste that is Elias Koteas in a bit part. But despite the pace somewhat picking up and the conclusion being slightly more satisfying than I expected after the first hour drug by, "Dream House" still feels like a mess of a film that had all the right in the world to be much better than it is, but it simply just...isn't. Craig gives a solid performance and I know he is starring in a big murder mystery later this year as the lead in David Fincher's American "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" but that is what this film needed to be. A man, accused of murder who can't remember if he killed his family or not and may or may not be psychotic goes searching for clues as to what actually happened. Then again, that would be "Memento" mixed with "Shutter Island" and while those are fine films it just makes it obvious there was nothing fresh about this idea in the first place and thus no need for it at all.

Will (Daniel Craig) and Libby (Rachel Weisz) are
concerned when their daughters see someone outside. 
The story (as if you don't already know all of it from the trailer) centers around Craig's Will Atenton who quits a job in publishing in the city to relocate his family to a small, peaceful New England town. With Weisz playing the loving wife role and two cute daughters at home as well, Will is living the dream as he works on his novel by day and spends more time with his family than ever granted before. Of course, this trying to be the horror film its advertised to be, things start to get a little strange. Too bad none of it actually elicits any genuine scares as they seem more a distraction to the usually reliable director Jim Sheridan, than critical moments that aid the plot of the story. Sheridan has worked countless times with Daniel Day-Lewis and made charming films like "In America" and solid dramas such as 2009's "Brothers". The man also made "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" though and here again seems to be plodding through a pointless script for the paycheck. Even in interviews Sheridan seems to be lackluster about his passion for the project acknowledging that while slightly more art house in its nature, you have probably seen this film before. I couldn't agree more.

Will's neighbor Ann (Naomi Watts) knows more than
she wants too in "Dream House".
The story is set up so that Will and his family learn of the murders and are surprised that such brutal crimes were committed at their idyllic home. As I said though, if you have seen the trailer you know all of this as well as the major twist at the center of it. Why the producers decided to divulge so much information in the trailers could only mean they didn't have much faith in the film without that hook, and even in promising that wasn't the biggest twist in the film, I think we all knew. Even if we had no idea, it is apparent early on the wife and children never leave the grounds of the house and that they are in fact figments of our protagonist's imagination. This is only confirmed when Naomi Watts, playing the estranged neighbor across the street, shows up and looks strangely at Will as he talks to his family. And I do apologize if you think by reading this I am spoiling this film for you, but honestly if you had any intention of seeing it you would have known as well as I before entering the theater that this is where it was heading. I will give "Dream House" this though, and that is I was pleasantly surprised by the enlightening epiphany Will reaches at the end of the film rather than the cliched cheap scare or easy out. The film does respect his character and everything he has gone through, but still, this last ditch effort doesn't erase the fact I wasted an hour and a half on the rest of it.

Will is able to leave his "dream house" and all its
baggage behind him.
I really can't be mad though, I knew this wasn't going to be my new favorite horror film going in and I came out with a feeling that while somewhat disappointed this didn't prove the rest of the critics wrong it did prove to be better because of those expectations set by critics and fans alike. "Dream House' is a mystery thriller that tries to scare us, but the only real mystery is why such time and talent was wasted on such a half baked product when they could have been producing something much more worth an audience members time. Both Watts and Weisz are no strangers to the art house/indie scene and make important choices in their efforts to play real characters that reflect real world issues. Sure, it is fun to do a project like this every once in a while, but at least pick one that is fun! Not something that your audience will get bored with or that has been told countless times prior. We may never know why such talent was wasted on this half hearted film, but if you really want to get to the bottom of it-"Dream House" isn't the worst you could do on a rainy night in October when you have absolutely nothing else to do. It has a few redeeming qualities, just not enough to recommend outside those exact circumstances.