Not a Dream Movie

Movie Review: Dream House (2011)
Summary: An editor leaves his job to be with his family in a new home in New England only to discover a disturbing history of murders in the house.
Spoilers: 5th paragraph and trailer.

“Will Atenton” (Daniel Craig) is a man who knows the importance of family. He’s living proof that a stress-free life with family pays off more than struggling with the daily grind in the big city.

Leaving his job as an editor for GPH Publishers, he moves back home and joins his wife, “Libby” (Rachel Weisz) and two daughters where he plans to write a book.

It sounds like the picture-perfect life, a life with
snowball fights, frozen-solid, snow-covered ground that crunches when walk on it, and every year a jovial, white Christmas memory.

The family is in the new home only for a short time before it gets around that the home was the place of a gruesome murder in which a wife and two kids were brutally shot to death. The only survivor was the husband who was thought to be responsible for the murders and was institutionalized for five years—only to be released around the movie’s beginning.

As the neighbors and local kids make light of and otherwise carry on about the tales of tragedy in the place, Will becomes convinced his family is in danger. "Pat Anderson" (Naomi Watts), the across-the-street neighbor who helps him to piece together the truth about the event, puts Atenton closer to coming upon a far more disturbing conviction: (spoiler) That he himself is the man thought to have killed them.

Why have I come right out and revealed what was no doubt supposed to be the big revelation of the film? Because the producers stupidly spoiled their own film. Just watch the trailer and behold what has every critic scratching their heads as to why the producers would do this. But they did do it. In fact, don’t see the movie. Nearly everything in it is in the trailer.

While extremely well acted - and with strong emotional commitments from Watts, Weisz, and Craig - we get no payoff for actually sitting through the movie—nothing but a drudging headache and a lethargy-laced depression. Dream House can put you right to sleep!

While painfully slow to the point of calling out for help, Dream House reaches its climax far too early, removing any true suspense from the film. There are some touching moments, even some sad and somber realizations that our main character must come to grips with. But if you’re even halfway intuitive, you already know them. Watch the trailer and the “light bulb” in your head will go off if it hasn’t already.

And when not petrifyingly slow, Dream House takes a little bit of inspiration from The Shining (1980) as can be seen from the above promotional image. A cloudy winter setting may ordinarily serve to induce an extra-gloomy and hopeless atmosphere, but here, it does little if anything.

The truly, truly sad reality for Atenton (that his dream house was far from a dream house) is revealed in such a way that only a few times do we find ourselves significantly moved. This is a disappointment since the film had all the right story-based strength to be arranged as a more than memorable tear-jerker.

Unfortunately, the audience just never receives a payoff that is equal to or greater than what we’ve been forced to endure.


Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rated: PG-13 (for sexuality, strong language, violence, and adult situations)
Director: Jim Sheridan
Starring: “Will Atenton” (Daniel Craig), “Libby” (Rachel Weisz), “Pat Anderson” (Naomi Watts), “Trish” (Taylor Geare), “Dee Dee” (Claire Geare)
Genre: Drama / Mystery / Thriller