With the folks over at Universal having inexplicably taken it upon themselves to completely and utterly deflate any sense of suspense that this trite supernatural thriller might otherwise have managed to muster with a trailer that revealed absolutely everything, the only lingering mystery left unsolved is just how such a starry cast was ever roped into this appalling nonsense to begin with.
Told from the (unreliable?) perspective of a husband and father, sweating out a book, slowly cracking up in the face of spooky goings on at his new home in snowy small town New England, Dream House invites comparisons to The Shining, only Jim Sheridan is no Stanley Kubrick to be sure, and beyond a strong and committed central turn from Daniel Craig, is utterly devoid of innovation or imagination. Unless you happen to find prolonged tedium scary, we suggest you seek your October fright fix elsewhere.
Craig, who must have been mightily bored whilst MGM’s financial circumstances essentially put the Bond franchise on hold, plays Will Atenton, who having traded his big city job for a quiet life and a book deal discovers that his house was the site of a gruesome familial slaying at the hands of its previous occupant, Peter Ward. But where as The Overlook Hotel gave us rivers of blood and those eternally spooky twin girls, the best Jim Sheridan – who along with everyone else is slumming here, it has to be said – can summon is shadowy figures in the woods and chanting goths in the basement.
Prior to a mid-picture reveal that we will not spoil for the handful of folks who might still be unaware we’re asked to invest an inordinate amount of time in Will’s life at home with his radiant wife and impossibly angelic young daughters. Rachel Weisz is essentially tasked with sighing and looking vaguely ethereal, constantly overlit so as to be bathed in a soft orange glow. And if you ever needed proof that the Best Actress Oscar is career death then check out Naomi Watts as the exposition dumping neighbor, here playing second banana to the unfettered chaos of a damaged man’s psyche.
For the briefest of moments it almost works, too, as Craig, who is at least permitted to act in his own accent, imbues Atenton with a quiet devastation that’s oddly affecting as he gradually begins to question everything he believes to be real. Then come the final reel the picture abandons any and all attempts to unknot its own mangled internal logic and instead takes a spectacular left turn into absurdity before nose-diving off a cliff into a chasm of unimaginable, appalling contrivance, dragging a flawed but workable idea down to levels of laughable, outright stupidity.
Danielle Panabaker's Top Pop Picks
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