Dream House


Dream House

Rachel Weisz is worried that Daniel Craig's performance is a little unfocused.

(2011) Psychological Thriller (Universal) Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts, Marton Csokas, Elias Koteas, Jane Alexander, Taylor Geare, Claire Geare, Rachel Fox, Brian Murray, Bernadette Quigley, Sarah Gadon, Gregory Smith. Directed by Jim Sheridan

A house is just four walls, a floor and a roof. It’s a dwelling, a place to store your stuff and a place to lay your head at night. There’s no emotional connection; it’s a hotel room that’s personalized for you. A home is an entirely different matter; there are people you love, memories – ghosts, if you will.

Will Atenton (Craig) is a successful New York publisher who is giving it all up for a more bucolic lifestyle upstate. He aches to spend more time with his family – wife Libby (Weisz) and daughters Dee Dee (C. Geare) and Trish (T. Geare). The house is a bit of a fixer upper but it has some potential. It’s winter and roaring fires are the order of the day and what could be cozier than that?

Except that the neighbors are affixing some odd looks at Will and his family. There is obviously some hostility, particularly with asshole neighbor Jack Patterson (Csokas) who is going through a bitter divorce and custody battle with wife Ann (Watts) over their daughter Chloe (Fox). Will chalks it up to just general New England suspiciousness and moves on with his life.

Then things start to spiral into the deep end. Will shoos some Goth teenagers out of his basement and discovers evidence that the last family that lived in the house had been massacred – and the father Peter Ward, the only survivor of the massacre (with a nasty gunshot wound to the head) was the suspect in the case. Peter had been committed to Greenhaven Psychiatric Hospital but after five years had just been released. The girls begin to see strange figures outside peering into the house.

Will is determined to get to the bottom of things and decides to investigate further. The more he finds out, the more troubling the situation becomes. It turns out Ann may know far more than she’s letting on. And when Will goes to Greenhaven to talk to Peter Ward’s doctor, he finds out something so shocking and chilling that it threatens his very sanity; and there is no doubt that someone wants Will and his family dead. Could Peter Ward be coming home at last?

Sheridan (director of such movies as In America and In the Name of the Father) is a steady, talented director who is not known for horror films, and his inexperience in the genre shows here. He did have the presence of mind to hire Caleb Deschanel as cinematographer, and the Oscar-winning Deschanel (father to Emily and Zooey by the by) would normally have been a master stroke, but while the movie looks slick with all sorts of barren winterscapes and homey hearths there is nothing really that adds to the tension.

Craig is rapidly becoming one of film’s best leading men, and he certainly looks the part here. He gets shirtless an awful lot in the movie (considering it’s set in the dead of winter) and the part calls for him to change emotional tableaux in split seconds and he’s more than up to the task. His onscreen chemistry with Weisz is genuine and adds an extra measure of enjoyment to the movie. Watts is given less to do and her character could have used more fleshing out.

I need to address something here. The movie’s major plot twist is unconscionably revealed in the trailer – if you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. There have been rumors that Sheridan had angered the production bosses at Morgan Creek, the production company for the movie, for deviating from the established script heavily (Sheridan has a reputation for liking to work improvisationally) and after disastrous focus group screenings, forced reshoots, finally editing the movie to their own standards. Sheridan reportedly requested his name be removed from the film and he, Craig and Weisz all refused to do publicity for the movie.

There is certainly an appearance that the reveal was done deliberately and childishly in order to sabotage the movie, and I’m quite certain Sheridan, Craig and Weisz all feel that’s the case. Of course, I don’t know it for certain – but I do know that the movie was ruined by its own marketing. Certainly not knowing that revelation (which I have deliberately omitted here) made the film less enjoyable. If you haven’t seen the trailer, I strongly urge you not to.

Be that as it may, the movie is far from perfect in any case. There is never any real tension generated by the movie, and what could have been an atmospheric thriller with overtones of supernatural horror becomes a substandard potbroiler that fools nobody and entertains very few. The damn shame of it all is that the movie is actually pretty well-written and with a few tweaks here and there could have been really entertaining. Alas, this is going to go down as a case where a director-producer feud may have ultimately ruined a movie.

REASONS TO GO: Craig is a compelling performer. There is a good deal of tension and overall the movie is well-written.

REASONS TO STAY: The main plot twist is revealed in the trailer. The identity of the real killer is weak and doesn’t fool anybody.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s a bit of violence, some terror, a little sensuality and briefly some bad language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Weisz and Craig began a romantic relationship after meeting on set. They were recently married in a discrete ceremony.

HOME OR THEATER: This is definitely one for the home front.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: 50/50

New Releases for the Week of September 30, 2011


 

September 30, 2011

DREAM HOUSE

(Universal) Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz, Marton Csokas, Claire Geare, Taylor Geare, Rachel G. Fox, Lynne Griffin, Jane Alexander, Elias Koteas, Brian Murray. Directed by Jim Sheridan

A successful New York City publisher moves his wife and two small children into a quaint home in a bucolic New England town. After they move in, they discover that the last residents of the home were murdered, an entire family with the surviving father being the main suspect in the crime. The more they look into it, the more strange things begin to occur and soon it becomes clear that the real horror might be staring them in the face.

See the trailer and promos here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Suspense Thriller

Rating: PG-13 (for violence, terror, some sensuality and brief strong language)

50/50

(Summit) Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard. A young man finds out that he has a rare form of cancer. He and his best friend decide to use humor and caring as a form of treatment for his disease. This is based on the life of screenwriter Will Reiser.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Dramedy

Rating: R (for language throughout, sexual content and some drug use)

Courageous

(Tri-Star) Alex Kendrick, Kevin Downes, Ben Davies, Matt Hardwick. A tight-knit group of police officers find their world rocked when tragedy befalls one of them. Hit in the face with their shortcomings as fathers, they turn to a higher power to help them heal the rifts in their own families and become better husbands, better fathers, better men and better cops.

See the trailer, clips, promos and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Christian Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for some violence and drug content)

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

(Magnet) Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine, Katrina Bowen, Jesse Moss. A group of teenagers on a camping trip run into a creepy pair of hillbillies. When one of the teens gets injured and separated from their friends, the two hillbillies – who turn out to be harmless – try to go to her aid. The others don’t see things that way however – they see a couple of murderous, sadistic backwoods serial killers out to get them and as they try to “rescue” their friend they inadvertently meet grisly demises. The trailer is really terrific – check it out.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Horror Spoof

Rating: R (for bloody horror violence, language and brief nudity)

What’s Your Number?

(20th Century Fox) Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Andy Samberg, Zachary Quinto. When a young woman reads a magazine article that those who have had 20 or more lovers have missed their shot at true love, she sets out to re-examine all of her exes to see if any of them measure up to being The One.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: R (for sexual content and language)