With a topnotch cast and a well-respected pro at the helm, Dream House is a good-looking thriller — and yet the cast refused to promote it, and Universal did just about everything to hide this thing but sweep it under a rug in an attic, screening it only at the very last minute, always a sure red flag. So is it really that bad? Well, frankly, no, it's not a total disaster, just another faintly ludicrous semi-supernatural thriller with a gimmick that's fairly difficult to advertise without a spoiler alert. In the golden days of movie palace ballyhoo, there would have been a lobby card boldly declaring, "Don't you dare reveal the shock twist ending!" but this time the trailer gives it all away like a going-out-of-business sale.
Not that the big swerve is a shocker to seasoned movie buffs; assembled as it is from parts of Shutter Island, Ghost, Amityville Horror, The Shining and lots more.
Daniel Craig plays Will Atenton, a paperback editor who prematurely retires from the grind of big time publishing in order to write a novel of his own and to putter about his Connecticut McMansion with his wife (Rachel Weisz) and two adorable tots. All is well in the sleepy first act, until strangers start lurking in the bushes, and teens hold a séance for the young family reportedly killed in the house five years earlier. Will is the soul of blandness, but he starts to unravel at the creepy news, and things get worse when the ex-husband of their sad and lovely neighbor (Naomi Watts and her perpetually pained expression) starts to become violent. Daniel Craig's character grows increasingly frazzled and disheveled, though, by the absurd third act, he's running mysteriously around in a skintight designer leather jacket giving sensual, pouty-lipped looks to the camera.
He tried to develop chemistry with both of his gorgeous leading ladies, but, as written, these gals are such paper dolls that not even very talented Weisz and Watts can do much with them. For a moment, Dream House seems to be building something, but at a languid, excitement-free pace, which underscores that sensitive director Jim Sheridan (In America, My Left Foot) was a lousy fit for this kind of pulpy material. All momentum is lost after the big reveal roughly midway through (not a surprise if you've been following the clues) and there's a hokey Wizard of Oz moment when people we saw earlier begin to pop up in a different context.
With the talent on hand Dream House is a snoozy, muddled letdown, but thankfully, like most dreams, it fades swiftly from memory.