Dream House (2011)
★ / ★★★★
Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) resigned from his job as a book editor to live in New Ashford with his wife (Rachel Weisz) and children (Taylor Geare, Claire Geare). Libby is confident that they will be happy in their new home because Will can begin writing his novel and spend more time with his daughters. Unbeknownst to Will and Libby, the house has a history. Just five years ago, the previous occupants were murdered and the community still fears that the killer will return. Not one of them dares to tell or warn either the husband or wife about what they know.
The most frustrating decision that “Dream House,” directed by Jim Sheridan, commits is pulling the rug from under our feet halfway through. But since the peripheral details are brainless, slow, and nonsensical, one gets the feeling that the twist is applied not to progress the plot but to trick us into believing that the screenplay is smart all along.
The revelation is thrown onto our laps too late. The sheer exhaustion of having to endure the characters consistently behaving as if they were stuck in an badly written and directed horror movie, despite what could have been an effective twist, has permeated through our minds and bodies. It is beyond redemption. For example, when Libby sees a person hiding behind a tree from their well-lit kitchen, Will has to run outside to confront the man without any weapon. Libby, meanwhile, runs after her husband after she struggles to put her boots on. The only payoff involves Will stepping on loose ice next to a stream. He yells out in frustration. It is supposed to be suspenseful but I found myself laughing at the ridiculousness of the scene.
Over time, I began to feel like the picture was simply allowing the minutes to trickle away. Will investigates the small town’s secret by talking to Ann (Naomi Watts), the divorced woman across the street with a very angry—not to mention very broke—ex-husband (Marton Csokas) and visiting psychiatric safe houses while sporting a nice coat. I wondered why Will does not choose to save time and energy by logging on the internet and researching what happened in their new residence. The lack of common sense is astounding.
Perhaps it might have been more forgivable if the screenplay had been clear about when the story is taking place. There is one scene where Libby notices a height tally with dates next to them but it could’ve been from people who owned the house prior to the murdered family. As we supposed to assume that the previous family were the only occupants that ever lived in that house? Is this movie made for people who cannot think outside the box?
As the film becomes more vague and repetitive, Will coming and going to and from the house with each of his visit looking more confused than before, I just stopped caring. If the filmmakers actually cared or wanted us to care, they would have put more energy in the way big and small revelations played out. Based on the screenplay David Loucka, “Dream House” is like watching a dream you can’t wake up from. The first thing I thought about the second it ended was how great Craig looked in sweat pants.