DREADFUL DVD: DREAM HOUSE (2011)
Starring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts
Directed by Jim Sheridan
Written by David Loucka
Given the avalanche of bad press surrounding the theatrical release of Dream House last fall, including word that director Jim Sheridan (In America) had petitioned the Directors Guild of America to have his name removed from the film’s final credits, my expectations were sufficiently lowered in advance of screening the film at home so as not to be too disappointed. And while Dream House is a mess in general and falls apart pretty egregiously in the final act, it’s far less of a nightmare than we have been led to believe.
Daniel Craig, in between Bond outings, stars as Will Atenton, an editor who quits his job to write a novel. (Crazy, I know, given the state of publishing.) Anyway, his wife Libby (Weisz) and young daughters are thrilled to have daddy at home in their brand new suburban McMansion. Their domestic bliss loses its lustre, though, when they find out that the house’s previous tenants – a mother and her two daughters – were apparently murdered by the husband. (Did something just click in your brain, too?)
The strange reaction of their neighbour (Watts) to Will’s presence and the patronizing attitude of the police to Will’s report of a prowler seem especially odd until – spoiler alert – it’s revealed that Will is in fact Peter Ward, the husband accused of the familicide, and his whole life as a writer is a mental construct.
If that all sounds just a tad farfetched, well, it is, although Craig rolls admirably with the obvious plot twist, and now the audience is on the hook for the duration, if for no other reason than to find out what happened to Ward’s family and whether or not he did in fact kill them.
Sheridan’s distancing himself from the project allegedly came about because of his being locked out of the editing suite, although we don’t think his having final cut would have solved the obvious script problems, especially the absurd secret behind the death of Aterton/Ward’s family. As well, Sheridan seems uncertain as to the tone he wants to strike: is Dream House a thriller or a drama? Sheridan doesn’t seem to know so neither does the audience.
As for the top-shelf cast, Watts is given very little to work with as the concerned but confused neighbour, and Canadian actor Elias Koteas (The Prophecy, Crash) is criminally underused as a possible bad guy. At least the chemistry between Craig and Weisz is palpable, especially given that they married after meeting on set, and the kids (sisters Taylor and Claire Geare) are cute as hell.
Dream House is a disappointing misfire from talented actors and filmmakers, but there’s enough good work here to warrant horror fans taking a boo at it, even if it’s not the sort of “boo!” for which they were hoping.