Finding the good in “Dream House” is like trying to find the silver lining in a block of lead.
At Quality 16 and Rave
The chemistry between Rachel Weisz (“The Lovely Bones”) and Daniel Craig (“Quantum of Solace”) as Will and Libby Atenton is decent. And the audience gets to see some interesting trailers for other films beforehand.
The cumbersome plot of “Dream House” is about a man named Will Atenton who moves his family to a small New England town, where he is unkindly received by the populace. Why? Well, as the trailer already pointed out, he is actually Peter Ward, a man who has been accused of killing his family in the very home he thought he’d only recently moved to, and who is schizophrenic. Aggrieved by this news, he returns to that very same home to uncover the truth.
Not only has the film ripped off Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” (among other competent films), but under Jim Sheridan’s (“In America”) direction the plot stutters through each scene at an excruciatingly slow pace, only made worse by the fact that the audience already knows the plot twist. Viewers are suckered into buying a ticket for a film confused by its own intentions: Does it portray a family too perfect for believability, or is it a silly “Scooby-Doo” funhouse, or a mystery?
Normally, if you want to see a thriller like this (assuming that’s what it was supposed to be) you’d want to be totally immersed in the experience — white knuckles, nervously tapping feet, edge of seat — pure, unrelenting terror. Here in “Dream House,” nothing sinister or foreboding brews within its walls. Here, you could probably sit rather comfortably in your seat, get in a few games of Tetris on your phone and leave in a completely stable state of mind.
Despite its stop-go, stuttering pace, there’s a feeling that the film seemed to want to be about something that the production company, Morgan Creek, simply would not have. According to the website Digital Spy, Craig, Weisz and Sheridan disliked the film so much they refused to promote it. Apparently, “Dream House” had turned into something none of them wanted.
Maybe the story wasn’t supposed to be about Ward’s insanity. Maybe it was supposed to be about the mystery of his family’s murder and the almost tender, almost tragic story of a man who lost his family, possibly by his own hand — which would explain why the film’s plot twist would be revealed in the trailer. As it is, the film dwells on the “surprise” so much that all attention is drawn toward it, and all of its aforementioned elements are buried beneath a thick coating of cheap, doughy scares. A derivative, sloppy, cuddly and ultimately boring thriller was born.
Unfortunately, the over-edited cast and crew cannot simply scrape this film off their resume like a $50 million wad of gum stuck on the bottom of their shoe. But maybe they can look back on it and laugh. And hopefully, audiences will forgive them for this misstep.