Movie Review: The Dream House

PrintE-mail Written by Paul Mount

Review: The Dream House (15) / Directed by: Jim Sheridan/ Screenplay by: David Loucka / Starring: Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts / Release Date: Out Now

Following the disappointment of ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ and with the (unnecessary) remake of ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ just around the corner and with his third Bond currently thundering into belated production, Daniel Craig’s profile’s rarely been higher. ‘The Dream House’ is in some ways a bit of a ‘marking time’ movie,  something Craig dashed off in some downtime between bigger projects. It’s undoubtedly a movie which will be remembered as the picture which brought Craig and his now-wife Rachel Weisz together (it’s hardly surprising - the chemistry between the two sizzles off the screen) which is a shame as, whilst it has some gaping plot holes and some incredible contrivances, it’s a decent enough little psychological thriller which dabbles here and there in the supernatural, if not the frankly totally unbelievable.

We’re in familiar territory at first. Writer Will Atenten (the unlikely surname is hugely relevant), his gorgeous artist wife Libby (Weisz) and their two “stinky kid” young daughters have moved to a dilapidated house in the middle of nowhere and while Will writes his magnum opus the couple are also busily doing up the gaff and setting themselves up at the idyllic all-American family unit. But their new home in paradise threatens to turn sour when the couple discover that the wife and two children who lived in the house previously were slaughtered; the husband, the only suspect, was never convicted due to his mental condition. Suddenly the Atenten’s house is being stalked by a sinister stranger, unlikely punk teens are holding candlelit parties in the cellar and their neighbour’s acting a little suspiciously.

So far so good - if also so far seen all this before. Up to about the halfway point this is agreeably watchable stuff, nicely filmed and with powerful, naturalistic performances by Craig and Weisz. The twist, when it comes (and it comes sooner than you might expect), is one that M Night Shyamalan himself might have thought twice about and when it comes your eyebrows will rise and they’ll stay that way throughout the rest of the film. So while ‘The Dream House’ goes off in an entirely different direction it’s actually hard not to feel a bit disappointed that we’ve lost the warm, cosy family dynamic of the first half of the film even if our sympathies remain with Will as he struggles to come to terms with the reality of his world and the enormity of the lie he’s been living. The film lurches off the rails a bit towards the end as the story struggles to join the dots and ultimately, despite all the clumsy exposition, there’s too much left unsaid and too many unanswered questions. The hurried, fiery finale comes across as little more than an afterthought, tacked on by a studio which thought the film was a bit too drab and downbeat and needed something colourful and spectacular to round things off.

The truth is that ‘The Dream House’ had a troubled production. Director Sheridan fought to have his name taken off the credits, such was his displeasure at the final theatrical cut (some 45 minutes worth of filmed material was removed) and newly-weds Craig and Weisz gave the thumbs-down to the idea of publicising their film. It’s a pity because, despite the slightly derivative nature of the story, there are some strong performances and good ideas here, even if, in retrospect, most of them were fairly unsubtly signposted early on in the movie.

‘The Dream House’ isn’t the nightmare it’s been made out to be by sniffier critics and, with its snowy, wintry setting and slightly off-kilter atmosphere, it manages to deliver a few decent chills before it throws away its credibility.  But the knowledge that the movie’s been tampered with and disowned can only leave the impression that somewhere out there is a far better, far subtler and far more successful film which, we can only hope, might even one day see the light of day on DVD or Blu Ray.

Expected rating: 5 out of 10

Actual rating:

‘The Dream House’ is open for viewing all over the UK now.

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