Horror Movie Review: Dream House (2011)

Will Atenton (Daniel Craig), his wife, Libby (Rachel Weisz), and two daughters, Trish and Dee Dee, have recently moved to a new house.

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At first, the family lives there happily but soon Will’s children start seeing a man watching the house from the front yard, and Will and Libby find evidence that something has happened to the house’s previous owners. Will eventually discovers that, 5 years prior, a woman named Elizabeth and her daughters Beatrice and Katherine were murdered; her husband, Peter Ward, was the main suspect, but he was let off because of lack of evidence and mentally wasn’t able to face trial. Will comes to believe that Peter Ward is stalking his family, and starts searching for more information about him.

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Dream House is a hard movie to review or even describe without revealing too many twists and turns of the plot. The biggest strength of this film is its cast and overall everyone gives decent performances with Craig’s being the highlight even if he is forced to put on an awful American accent throughout. Also do all everyday businessmen have the physic of James Bond?

Will’s research leads him to the psychiatric hospital where Ward was committed after being arrested for the murders. There, Will discovers that he is Peter Ward, and that he created a new identity for himself in order to cope with the grief of his family’s death. When he was still in the mental hospital, he decided that he could not have been Peter Ward because he would never kill his family; he made up a new name in which he used the numbers on his wrist band ID (W1-1L 8-10-10). In turn, the audience learns that everything that has occurred up to this point in the movie was just fantasy. Peter is informed by the doctors that he claimed he was innocent. He returns to his house, which is actually abandoned and converses with the projections of his wife and daughters, who claim that they believe in his innocence.

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The most frustrating thing about Dream House is that it has an interesting premise but for some reason it does everything it can to make the ‘big reveal’ as obvious as possible and it just falls completely flat; even the trailer gives it away before you’ve even seen it, what were they thinking? Another big problem is that the movie just doesn’t seem to know what it’s trying to be; a mystery thriller or a haunted house slasher flick, who knows.

The interactions between Craig and Weisz are well performed as there is good chemistry between the two and the scenes in which Peter attempts to convince his family that they are dead are definitely the most intriguing of the film. Peter does this in an attempt to finally figure out if he actually had brutally murdered his family or not but come on what do you think? It’s painfully obvious and the conclusion and explanation for certain events happening are simply ridiculous.

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It turns out that a character that we saw for a mere few seconds at the start of the film was responsible for the death of Peter’s family but why would he do such an awful thing? He got the wrong house of course; he intended to murder the ex-wife of another character that we saw for a mere few seconds earlier in the movie. It’s all very confusing and just doesn’t add up at all and there is no real answer as to whether Peter could actually see his family or if they were simply imaginary because at point he kisses his wife, got to wonder what he’s actually doing….

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Certain viewers may watch Dream House and be thrilled by the shifting, uncertain nature of its plot (if they can avoid scrutinizing it and simply brush off the gaping plot holes). The film is well constructed and well-acted, so it’s not a total nightmare. However, like the strangest of dreams, watching this movie will leave you feeling muddled and somewhat frustrated about the experience.

Dream House had plenty of potential with its story and great cast but ultimately falls seriously flat by thinking that its smarter than it really is. Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig don’t have very good chemistry together but even if they did it wouldn’t save the paper thin plot. Maybe if the marketing team hadn’t ruined the “big reveal” with the trailers things could have been different but now all that’s left is untapped potential.

Dream House
  • 4/10
    The Final Score - 4/10
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