Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) is a respected editor at a large New York publisher, but one day he decides he’s had enough of the rat race. With that, he quits his job, boards the train back to Connecticut, and decides that his real goal in life is to become an author. So, Will goes home to his wife Libby (Rachel Weisz), and decides to retire to his dream house, get the renovations over with, and write his novel.
However, there’s one problem with Will Atenton’s dream house, and it’s not his lovely neighbor Ann (Naomi Watts) or her weird ex-husband Jack (Marton Csokas). It’s the fact that one night, after stumbling across an infestation of teenagers in his basement, Will finds out that his house is the scene of a grisly murder. Will Atenton’s dream house is actually Peter Ward’s slaughter house, and this sets off an increasingly desperate search for details behind the murder in the old Ward house, before Peter Ward comes home from the mental hospital.
Billed as a supernatural horror, as it turns out, Dream House is more like a psychological thriller. The script, from David Loucka (best known for the Whoopi Goldberg vehicle, Eddie), is pretty straightforward. This is the kind of movie you’ve seen before, and it yields absolutely no surprises along the way. If anything, it feels like a Lifetime-caliber movie that somehow landed an incredible cast of actors and a surprisingly big budget.
All complaints about the mediocre script aside, the movie boasts a stellar cast. Daniel Craig is underrated as an actor, and while he’s good looking, he’s craggy enough to look like a stressed-out normal guy… just a stressed out guy with incredible abs.
Rachel Weisz is a stand-out in her role as Libby, the harried housewife who seems to have all the good emotional breakdowns in the script and who gets to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to the wife in peril role. Naomi Watts doesn’t get a lot to do, but Marton Csokas is pretty impressive in the role of the very angry, very paranoid ex trying to win custody of his teenage daughter from his hated ex-wife. His on-screen role is brief, but he at least looks memorable, and that’s about the best you can hope for from ten minutes of screen time.
Jim Sheridan is a competent director here, and he manipulates the camera well in an attempt to wring the maximum amount of tension out of the various scenes of Daniel Craig creeping around his darkened, snow-blanketed house. Whatever tension can be found, Sheridan gets it on screen. However, he avoids all the usual clichés of the suspense flick (for example, not a single cat leaps out of a closet, which is incredible for this kind of movie).
Still, it’s not entirely successful. The script is just not impressive in any way. The plot is pedestrian and about halfway through the movie seems to run out of steam in spite of all involve’s attempt to stretch it out for a full 92 minutes. It seems a lot longer, and it’s not the fault of the actors (Weisz and Craig have great chemistry, which is probably why they ended up getting married after filming wrapped) or even the director.
It just seems like the movie ran out of ideas halfway through. If Dream House had been a 60-minute episode of, say, The Twilight Zone, it would have ended up better.
Instead, an hour’s worth of movie gets stretched, along with the patience of this particular reviewer. It’s a shame to see a great start frittered away, but that’s what happens sometimes.