From the outlook of DREAM HOUSE, two-time Oscar nominated director Jim Sheridan's (MY LEFT FOOT, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER) first foray into psychological thriller sounds like a refreshing throwback to the "suburban house-in-peril" subgenre popularized in the 1990s with a supernatural twist. What's more, the movie is boosted with an irresistibly dream cast: Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts. So what's not to like? Unfortunately the end product in DREAM HOUSE turns out to be an unexpected train-wreck of a movie. Yes, it's pretty unbelievable especially given the caliber of good talents involved here.
At the beginning of the movie, it starts out with a steady but efficient pace where we first learn that successful editor Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) has finally quits his hectic job in New York City to relocate his wife, Libby (Rachel Weisz) and their two beautiful little daughters, Dee Dee and Trish (Claire Geare, Taylor Geare), to a quiet suburban home in New England town. At first, it's a perfect new chapter in their life living together in an equally perfect home. But it doesn't take long before they discover that their so-called "dream house" was once a heinous crime scene involving the murder of a mother and her children. The entire city knows about the incident, where the murder was orchestrated by the psychotic husband named Peter Ward. Apparently Peter Ward is still survived, and he is now lives at the halfway house somewhere nearby the city. Will proceeds on investigating the matter, but the local police refuse to help at all. Bit by bit, he finally discovers that the only lead comes from Ann Patterson (Naomi Watts), a neighbor who lives across their home, knows very well about the incident. Then there's the surprise twist midway throughout the movie that reveals the shocking truth involving Will Atenton. I have to say it's a good twist that really caught me in surprise, which makes the otherwise cliched-ridden movie a fascinating cinematic experience to watch for. Unfortunately, that is where Jim Sheridan and screenwriter David Loucka starts to lose control of their movie altogether. (No wonder it is reported that Sheridan was not pleased with the studio's decision for the final result. Both Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz expressed their dissatisfaction as well, which explained the numerous bad publicity surrounding the movie even before the theatrical release).
Whether this is a result of messy studio tinkering, it's no doubt that Jim Sheridan's usually reliable direction is terribly lackluster. He has little idea how to sustain the level of suspense for this kind of movie. Not only that, he appears to be clueless as well. How else can you explain the way he shoots his picture ruined mostly by unnecessary shaky-cam, irrelevant close ups and other surprisingly amateurish camerawork? Even the involvement of veteran cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (NATIONAL TREASURE, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST) is wasted here, with surprisingly drab cinematography which makes the movie duller than they already look. Only John Debney's score evokes the familiar nail-biting music we usually seen in this kind of movie.
The biggest fault of this movie is David Loucka's unnecessarily bloated screenplay. Right until the middle part of the movie, DREAM HOUSE is potential enough to interest the viewers with its fascinating twist. But Loucka doesn't develop the twist from there. Instead he botches everything up with more red herrings that subsequently makes the movie so confusing to understand. If that's not insulting enough, there's an unexpected twist in the final third-act that wraps up the actual going-on of the story. That particular third-act is a pure cop-out, which leaves you scratching your head in disbelief.
Cast-wise, both Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts are pale shadows of themselves with inconsistent acting all around.
DREAM HOUSE is a terrible mess, and a particularly embarrassing effort for all the talents involved.