NOTE: Being that The Arrow aka John Fallon is abroad at the moment, he will be reviewing Dream House late.
PLOT: A big-city book editor, Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) relocates his family; consisting of his wife Libby (Rachel Weisz), and two daughters, to a seemingly idyllic upstate setting. After settling into the family’s “Dream House”, Will discovers that the house’s previous inhabitants, a family much like his own, were murdered after the father went crazy. Now convinced that the murdering father, who’s just been released from the local mental hospital, is stalking his family, Will sets out to discover the truth behind the horrific slayings.
REVIEW: Jim Sheridan is a director whose track record confuses the hell out of me. I find it astonishing that the man responsible for IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, IN AMERICA, THE BOXER, and MY LEFT FOOT, is also responsible for the 50 Cent-starrer GET RICH OR DIE TRYING, and now, this hokey haunted house “thriller” DREAM HOUSE.
After the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films, and INSIDEOUS, spooky ghost stories are all of a sudden hot again, but I still can’t imagine what drew a director like Sheridan, not to mention a top-notch cast consisting of Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts, and Rachel Weisz to DREAM HOUSE. To give Sheridan, Craig, Weisz, and Watts the benefit of the doubt, it’s likely that this final version of DREAM HOUSE was not the film any of them signed on for. According to the IMDB, Sheridan lost control of the movie, and the film was reshot and reedited by producer James G. Robinson, who’s not new to this kind of behavior, having sacked Paul Schrader from EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING, and having the film entirely reshot by Renny Harlin.
While it’s impossible to know how much of a bastardization of Sheridan’s original cut the finished product is, it’s such a goofy film that I find it hard to believe it could have ever been good. The film starts off as a relatively low-key mystery, with few supernatural flourishes, as Craig attempts to piece together the home’s troubled history. However, about forty minutes into the relatively scant 90 minute running time, the film totally shifts gears, throwing a ludicrous twist at the audience that feels like Sheridan (or rather Robinson) saw THE SIXTH SENSE a few too many times.
From there, the film just gets goofier and goofier. It all leads to an unintentionally funny climax, that’s capped with an epilogue that might have resulted in the screen being pelted with popcorn and Pepsi, had I not been the only person sitting in the theater (got a feeling this one ain’t gonna set the box office on fire).
Still, there are a few things that suggest Sheridan’s original vision for DREAM HOUSE might have been decent. For one, Daniel Craig, as always, makes a compelling lead. While he’s had some bad luck with his non-James Bond vehicles (although this will likely change after THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO hits), he’s still a reliable performer. If the film had been framed differently, rather than relying on a cheap twist, this could have been a strong vehicle for his talents- but he’s betrayed by some really bonehead narrative choices.
Rachel Weisz (her and Craig met on the set of this film, so at least he got a wife out of the deal) doesn’t have much of a role, with her playing the typical, hysterical wife role- which is far below her considerable talents. That said, Naomi Watts is the person who’s involvement really makes me scratch my head, as she has virtually nothing to do but provide a little exposition. Usually reliable character actors like Marton Czokas, and Elias Koteas ham it up a bit towards the end, although my feeling is that both realized exactly the type of film they were making and tried to at least some fun.
In its current form, DREAM HOUSE only really works as an unintentional comedy- which I doubt is what anyone involved was hoping for. Without a doubt, it’s a black mark on the CV’s of everyone involved, but if the trivia on the IMDB is right, it’s just another victim of moviemaking by committee- which never works. Sheridan, Craig, Weisz, and Watts are all far too talented to be affected by the film too much, but I’m curious to know what their original intent was, as it would have been nice to see a classy, A-list thriller. This ninety minute hatchet job isn’t even worthy of being called a B-flick.