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A Review of Dream House, a Film with a Weak Script and Bad Editing

Updated on January 25, 2015

The film's poster is more intriguing than the whole movie

One of the many promotional posters for the suspense film, this one depicts the three main characters and the two children.
One of the many promotional posters for the suspense film, this one depicts the three main characters and the two children. | Source

The synopsis reads like one of M. Night Shyamalan's rejected first drafts

Will Atenton, a writer (Daniel Craig), and his wife, Libby (Rachel Weisz), move into a charming older home with their two young daughters. The family notices that people in the neighborhood act strangely and hostilely toward them until, one day, the daughters find out that a man, Peter Ward, murdered his wife and two children in the house.

The project became a point of contest between the director Jim Sheridan and the head of Morgan Creek, Jim Robinson. Sheridan reshot a few scenes that did not go over well with test audiences only to have Morgan Creek take the film away and re-cut it. The newly cut version was received so poorly by the people involved that Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz both refused to promote the film to the press. Because of poor editing and too many clues left in the trailer as a result of this foolishness, the twist didn't come as much of a surprise for viewers, so I shall not shy away from revealing any spoilers here.

Will goes in search of Peter Ward after he learns that Ward has been released from custody and suspecting that Ward is the one wandering around in the woods at night and terrorizing his family. As he is visiting Ward's psychiatrist, Will learns that he himself is Peter Ward and that his family is actually dead and he has been living in his dilapidated, empty house all alone since being released. In an attempt to escape the reality of what had happened, he had created a new name for himself based off the numbers on his ID bracelet at the hospital. After struggling to come to terms with this revelation, Peter goes to visit the pretty neighbor next door, Ann Patterson (Naomi Watts), who was Libby's best friend when she was alive. While he is there, it becomes evident to Peter that Ann is involved in a bitter custody battle with her ex-husband, Jack (Marton Csokas), over their teenage daughter.

In the climax of the film, Will and Ann are confronted by Jack and a hit man. It is revealed that Ann's ex-husband had hired the hit man to kill her years ago, but he had gotten the wrong house and killed Peter's family instead, injuring Peter in the altercation. Peter says goodbye to his ghost wife and children, saves Ann, and let's the house burn down with Jack in it. Peter walks away into the night. In the last scene of the film, we see Peter walk by a bookstore with a stack of books in the window. The book is entitled Dream House, written by Peter Ward.

The plot is confusing and simply unbelievable

Now, I know that part of watching and enjoying movies requires a certain suspension of disbelief, but it's nearly impossible to get behind the plot of this film. There are too many gaping plot holes that cannot be ignored. For instance, Peter would never have been released from the psychiatric facility when he was consumed by delusions and hallucinations. And although it is certainly possible for mentally ill or traumatized people to adopt a different persona or identity for themselves, it's very rare. Our identities and senses of selves are so ingrained in us that it is very difficult for someone to become so unaware of themselves as Peter did.

Even if you give the Will/Peter identity twist a pass, the subplot of Ann and Jack's custody battle is also ridiculous. As Jack hired a hit man to kill only his wife, it is unlikely that he would have walked into a house thinking it was the right one and first shot two little girls. It's a mistake that just doesn't add up, and it's obvious that the script writer was simply searching for a plausible explanation as well as a way to link Peter and Ann together.

The story relies on convenient coincidences that would be considered deus ex machina if they hadn't been hastily hinted at in the beginning of the movie. Nonetheless, this dependence on incredibly weak explanations for all conflicts and mysteries in the film leaves the audience feeling drained of all their patience.

Nearly everything about the film is bland

When it comes to the technical aspects of the film, nothing stands out. The camera work isn't phenomenal, and the special effects are mediocre at best. The musical score is downright forgettable, especially as the movie relies on the music for a cheap buildup of anticipation in several scenes. I'd like to think that, as nearly zero attention was paid to the script, gaping plot holes, and spotty editing, more effort would have been put into the details that brings a film together. The technical parts of the film, the art direction, and the musical score are the best aspects of the movie, but that doesn't mean much if the best is just mediocre in the grand scheme of things.

Will evaluates the damage done by neighborhood teenagers

Due to the violent history of the house, neighborhood teenagers often trespass on the property for a thrill.
Due to the violent history of the house, neighborhood teenagers often trespass on the property for a thrill. | Source

Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz have great chemistry

As Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz later married, it's no surprise that they share an amazing on screen chemistry. Despite the ridiculous script and lackluster camera and music work, this pair shines, particularly in the tender moments. In fact, according to IMDB, Craig said, "The movie didn't turn out great. But I met my wife. Fair trade."

One of the best scenes in the film is where Will and Libby are getting frisky together at night. The two actors are playful yet incredibly loving toward one another to the point where the audience can feel the warmth between the characters that are portrayed. Craig and Weisz are also exceptional when it comes to acting alongside the girls playing their children. The audience is drawn into this lovely portrait of a new family. Although the plot itself makes no sense, the viewer has an emotional reaction when he or she learns that Will's family is dead and he is all alone.

Watch as Daniel Craig struggles to make the movie sound interesting

The actors are very pretty to look at

Okay, I am definitely reaching for what to say about this film, both positive and negative. What's so uninspiring about this film is that it didn't elicit a strong reaction from me either way. It was alright, and that was that. The experience of watching it was bland and plodding, but it was improved by the addition of very good looking actors. Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz both glow in the film, and an appreciated amount of focus is given to Daniel Craig's physique which is fit yet not overbearing. Although it's cheap to focus on something so arbitrary as whether or not the actors make my loins tingle, that's really all that I've got when it comes to such a dull psychological "thriller."

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Peter's fantasy begins to fall apart

Dee Dee/Katherine (Claire Geare) and Trish/Beatrice (Taylor Geare) exhibit gunshot wounds as Peter begins to return to reality.
Dee Dee/Katherine (Claire Geare) and Trish/Beatrice (Taylor Geare) exhibit gunshot wounds as Peter begins to return to reality. | Source

Don't waste your time on this movie

Although the film is on Netflix, it's not even worth watching on a rainy day or when you're stuck at home with the flu. Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz succeed in creating the appearance of warmth and affection that's customary in a new family, but they cannot fill in all the gaps that are present because of a weak script. Unfortunately, most of the movie is forgettable, most of the details having slipped out of my head as soon as the end credits began rolling. Spend your time watching a movie with a little more heart to it instead.

A twist on the haunted house trope falls flat

When the family moves into the house, similar to the one pictured here, the audience is lured into believing it will be a classic haunted house story. Unfortunately, what actually happens is far less spooky.
When the family moves into the house, similar to the one pictured here, the audience is lured into believing it will be a classic haunted house story. Unfortunately, what actually happens is far less spooky.

Dream House gets a lukewarm rating

2 stars for Dream House (2011)

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