It comes as no real surprise that director Jim Sheridan tried to have his name taken off the final cut of Dream House, nor that stars Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz were so unhappy with the finished film that they refused to do any promotional work for its release. As a horror movie, Dream House simply isn’t scary, as a thriller it is glaringly obvious what is going on almost from the outset, and it climaxes with an ending so implausible and frankly ridiculous that audiences will rightly feel insulted for having paid money to see it.
Will Atenton (Daniel Craig), a successful publisher, takes early retirement to write a novel, moving into a new suburban home with his wife, Libby (Rachel Weisz) and their two young daughters. They soon discover that their house was the scene of a horrific murder five years before, where a family was brutally gunned down, supposedly by the father, who has recently been released from a mental institution. Will and his family become increasingly paranoid that Peter Ward, the man deemed responsible, has been lurking around their house, although the police and their neighbours, Jack and Ann Patterson (Marton Csokas and Naomi Watts) are reluctant to help, leaving Will to investigate on his own.
The biggest single complaint about the film is how glaringly obvious its major twist is, and considering it is revealed in the film’s trailer, it seems difficult to justify keeping it a secret here. Suffice to say that Dream House belongs to the same family of psychological thrillers as Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others or Martin Scorsese’s SHUTTER ISLAND. All is not what it seems, unless you have ever seen a horror film before, in which case you will determine exactly what is going on long before the characters onscreen do and spot the real perpetrators the moment they appear, if for no other reason than because the actors playing them are celebrated creepy character players.
Dream House has a chance to redeem itself in the third act, as the twist is revealed early enough for Will to then act upon it in a potentially interesting way. He remains resolute to solve the murders, even when fully aware of who might be implicated. However, the final resolution is as absurd and contrived as it was obvious from the very beginning and when characters we already know aren’t really there begin interacting with other characters and even inanimate objects, all is lost. The saddest part about Dream House for all concerned is that this is a film that will not be quickly forgotten or consigned to the vaults of history. This was where Craig and Weisz met, fell in love and quickly thereafter got married, and few things can be more depressing for these A-list newlyweds than having the chronicle of their courtship prove such an embarrassing blemish on both their careers. For the rest of us, however, this is one nightmare best avoided completely.