Dream House Review: Night Terrors

DREAM HOUSE (15): On General Release Friday 25th November

Dream House looks like it has a lot going for it. A solid cast featuring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts, along with acclaimed director Jim Sheridan, in a mystery thriller appears to have the makings of a solid movie… but with this film, nothing is as it seems.

The story centers on Will Atenton (Craig) who moves his wife (Weisz) and two daughters into a seemingly peaceful new home. Once they learn of the brutal murders committed by the home’s former patriarch on his family, it is up to Atenton to investigate the house’s eerie and mysterious past.

The story is at times laughable and though the main twist is surprising, the fact that it is revealed halfway through the film depreciates it. What is left is an “everything can’t be what it seems” beginning interrupted by a surprise and followed by haunted-house clichés. Nothing really separates Dream House from films of the same genre except the high-caliber cast which is wasted.

The predictable storyline is riddled with unintentionally funny moments of psychological revelation, with the origin of the name Atenton receiving an audibly amused reaction from the audience. The end of the film is the worst of all, with a completely unsatisfying unveiling of the killer and a sappy moment of redemption for Craig. The final shot in particular is offensively hokey.

Craig does well given what he has to work with. He is able to switch seamlessly between well-off family man and tortured halfway home resident and he does his best to make the story intriguing. Naturally, he is walking around shirtless a number of times, despite the frosty weather. Weisz can draw on real life experience as Craig’s wife and she turns in reliably solid performance as well.

Still, the pair cannot save a film that was seemingly doomed from the moment Sheridan took control. Even though he constantly changes tone, he never manages to hit the right one and the result is confounding. Sometimes it seems that he’s going for psychological thrills but then instantly switches to the shadowy figures and blood-curdling screams of horror and ultimately creates a confusing picture. The inclusion of CG effects is ill-advised, especially considering the doubtlessly minuscule budget allotted for them.

It’s hard to tell what audience this movie is aimed at. Without a solid grounding in the thriller or horror genre presumably it’s for fans of both, but without any innovation in either category, no self-respecting movie goer will consider this memorable. Any film with such an artificial story and poor direction will be hard-pressed to find fans, regardless of the genre.