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Dream House Review

Neil Mathieson | Monday, October 3, 2011

Jim Sheridan has always been a consistent and quality director — until now.


His previous films, such as “Brothers” and “My Left Foot,” showed his ability to compose strong character-driven drama. Seeing that Sheridan had taken the reins on the horror film “Dream House” was undoubtedly exciting. “Dream House” even had an exceptional cast including Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and Naomi Watts. Also, Sheridan’s capacity for creating tension, as proven in “Brothers,” could have conceivably lent itself nicely to a scary film.


And yet, “Dream House” was thoroughly disappointing, as it turned out to be a discombobulated mish-mash without any real narrative direction.


At its core, “Dream House” is a haunted house movie crossed with a psychological thriller. Will (Daniel Craig) moves with his wife, Libby (Rachel Weisz), and two daughters to a peaceful New England town. Except their new Norman Rockwell house has been the site of a brutal series of murders years ago. Will discovers Ann (Naomi Watts), a secretive neighbour, watching him and begins to uncover the mystery that surrounds his new home and family.


Craig attempts to give a good performance as he slowly becomes tortured as he unravels the situation that surrounds him. However, the scenes do not do him justice and leave him without any freedom to push the emotional boundaries of his character. Instead, we get a string of awkward instances and it is never clear what is supposed to be garnered from the scene. When the characters finally do explain what is going on we are pandered to and given literal expositions on the narrative, which really takes the fun out of the mystery.


The story itself is unoriginal and although the plot twists in “Dream House” are clever in theory, we have seen them all before. SPOILER ALERT: For instance, “The Shining” and “Shutter Island” share many commonalities with “Dream House” in plot. But “Dream House” fails to execute the aesthetic needed in an effective creepy psychological thriller. The movie never found its proper footing and was disjointed throughout. Because of this it is hard to get caught up in what was happening and the entire feeling of suspense, so vital to this kind genre, is lost.


Apparently, Sheridan was not happy with “Dream House” either. Universal Pictures screened the film for a test audience who panned it. Left to completely re-work it, Sheridan could never get “Dream House” to come together the way he hoped. So eventually, he gave up and allowed it to be released to the audience, which is unfortunate for us.


The main complaint I have about “Dream House” is that it completely fails to deliver. It is hard to respect a horror movie that isn’t exactly scary. The nonsensical script could be forgivable, as would the obvious twists, if the movie could have provided a couple “jump out of your seat” moments. But alas, there weren’t any.


“Dream House”

Starring: Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz

Director: Jim Sheridan