If you haven’t seen the trailer for “Dream House,” you probably haven’t turned on a television this past week. More importantly, you were spared from the virtual broadcasting of half the film’s plot. I won’t lie – for the most part, what you see in the trailer is what you get.
“Dream House” follows Will Atenton (Daniel Craig), an editor at a major publishing company who decides to leave his demanding work schedule to spend more time with his wife (Rachel Weisz) and two daughters in suburban New England. Will acclimates himself to his new home and soon meets his neighbor, Ann Patterson (Naomi Watts), a middle-aged woman who is divorcing her short-fused husband Jack (Marton Csokas) and is consequently vying for custody of their teenage daughter (Rachel G. Fox). The Pattersons are mostly distant to their new neighbors and are quite obviously hiding the big fat secret the audience is looking for.
Life moves forward, but the Atenton family begins to notice a figure looming outside their house at night, and after finding a group of cult-like teenagers performing a ritual in his basement, Will Atenton learns of a series of notorious murders that took place in his home. It turns out that the previous family was shot by the father, the infamous Peter Ward, who was recently released from a psych ward due to lack of evidence. Atenton connects the dots and figures their new stalker could be Ward, and thus begins his quest to find and stop the man harassing his family.
For those who haven’t seen the trailer and actually care to see “Dream House,” stop here. For those who have indeed seen the trailer, we all know from the get-go that Atenton is Peter Ward, an undeniably huge plot spoiler. It turns out that this detail isn’t revealed until about halfway through the film. This should tell you something about the imbalanced structure and agonizingly slow pace of this film, not to mention the end is wrapped almost as quickly as the trailer is cut.
On top of this, Atenton is one of the more boring protagonists in recent memory, a nearly silent if handsome character, who basically utters just about every conceivable cliché nice-guy line within the first act. After this however, the tone shifts to mystery, and Atenton falls into the denial-ridden character we all knew he would be. The supporting cast doesn’t offer much either, as the characters stand idly by for most of the film with limited character depth.
So the plot is predictable, that’s fine. Though, perhaps there’s something to appreciate in the overall style of the film, in order to make up for the shoddy plotline. Unfortunately, however, there is not. “Dream House” uses just about every popular horror technique in the book: abrupt cuts to make you jump; lingering shots that lead nowhere; and swelling violins in the score to build faux suspense. Originality is nowhere to be found.
This is a curiosity, considering the attachment of revered director Jim Sheridan, who helmed such well-received efforts as “My Left Foot” and “In the Name of the Father.” It seems that there were some butting of heads in regards to the final cut of the film, and it may be entirely possible that Sheridan’s version may have been watered down by the studio. It baffles me that studios decide to produce this kind of film, rife with miscast and uninteresting characters, hackneyed story concepts and almost totally stolen production techniques.
Save your money and integrity. Don’t see this film.
Adam Abdelmaksoud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.