Dream House, Jim Sheridan’s attempt at a mind-bending psychological thriller is only as good as its preview. Actually, it’s not even that good.
All you really need to see of the movie is in its preview, which manages to dispel the lion’s share of the mystery and intrigue by spoiling the film’s main twist.
But even if you didn’t spend a tedious first half of the movie watching Daniel Craig solve a mystery you already knew the answer to, “Dream House” would still be a pretty terrible movie.
In it, Craig, his two young daughters and his wife, played by Rachel Weisz, move from New York to their dream home in suburbia. Bit by annoyingly slow bit, Craig discovers that the family that had lived previously lived in the house perished in a bloody massacre for which the father is thought to be responsible. Craig becomes obsessed tracking the similarities between his life and you can probably guess what comes next.
It’s “The Others” meets “The Number 23,” which can never be a good combination. If you think I already gave too much away by saying that, know that I divulged half what the movie’s preview does.
Fortunately (or, depending on your point of view, unfortunately) there isn’t a lot of quality filmmaking left to be spoiled. The script and story feel as if they were pasted together on notebook paper with Safety-Kut scissors and edible Elmer’s glue sticks.
Instead of nuanced turns and twists in the plot, we get an oafishly delivered “thriller” in which it’s clear that everything is overtly and purposefully convoluted. The movie is constantly scrambling to find artless ways of covering up the movie’s “twist,” which anyone with a pulse could see from a mile away, even without the preview.
The dialogue is deliberately vague and there are annoying details, such as the main character’s idiosyncratic name, that are so obviously important to the story that they feel shoved down the audience’s throat.
It feels like an old man telling a joke, but he forgot some of the components of it. It’s constantly saying “Oh, wait! Did I mention he was in a mental institution? Because that part’s important.”
Even seasoned actors Weisz and Craig can’t save this stinker. Although they were miraculously able to kindle sparks of emotion, even passion, using the film’s soggy mophead of a script.
Craig does especially well with the meager supplies he’s given.
In one particularly affective scene, we see the truth bring a world he has created for himself crashing down around him. Craig transforms, literally before our eyes from the suave, measured and loving dad of his dream world to the raving shell of a man clinging to the shreds of his former life.
We watch his clothes and appearance change from chic to stained and ragged and greasy. But it goes beyond his superficial appearance. Suddenly, there’s something manic in his eye, something dark and unsettling and you truly start to question his culpability.
Scenes like this remind me that somewhere deep down inside, beyond the crayon-scrawled script, there was the makings of a not-so-terrible movie. Maybe that’s why it’s sad that it fails so hard.