Review: Dream House (2011)

Fortuitous publisher Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) relocates his wife (Rachel Weisz) and two children (Taylor and Claire Geare) to a seemingly idyllic house in a picturesque New England town. As they adjust to their environment, they discover that their new house is actually the scene of an old murder. Attempting to piece together exactly what happened, Will, with the aid of his amiable neighbour (Naomi Watts), uncovers the unsettling truth behind the deplorable events.

What begins as an unnerving, rousing thriller, hits an altogether sour note once the – quite frankly outrageous – midway plot twist is revealed. From here on out, it spirals all too quickly into a half-heartedly executed patchwork of cliches, idiotic plot devices, superficial dialogue and characters that blunder along in a haze of hesitance. It’s as if screenwriter David Loucka lost interest half way through and resorted to pedestrian mechanisms in order to round things off as quickly as possible, burying the fascinating premise beneath a mountain of twaddle and tonal shifts as a way of concocting minor, distracting scares to appease viewers’ attention.

For such dubious material, the direction by Academy Award nominated Jim Sheridan is surprisingly resilient, particularly in the way he juxtaposes the family’s bright and cosy home with the dark and mysterious horrors that lie outwith their presumed sanctuary. Unfortunately, the material isn’t nearly worthy for Sheridan’s obvious skill, which is likely why he petitioned to disassociate himself with the troubled film, asking to have his name officially removed from the credits.

In spite of the above obstacles, and the fact almost everyone involved has since disowned the final cut, Craig, Weisz and Watts deliver respectable performances as the central trio, often making the material seem better than it truly is and proving their ability as three accomplished actors. The same, however, can’t be said for supporting members Elias Koteas and Marton Csokas (as Boyce and Jack Patterson: catalysts to Will’s search), who are criminally wasted in their monotonous roles, adding nothing to the films overall lukewarm effect.

If it wasn’t for the natural abilities dutifully supplied by Sheridan, Craig, Weisz and Watts, Dream House would be a complete write-off. Instead, it finds itself in a precarious position where the admirable manages to mask the awful… up until the point where it all falls apart, you just can’t take it any longer and ultimately recoil in terror.

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