Dream House is a film that has a fairly interesting back story, one that is an all-too-common tale of the director versus the production company. During the production of Dream House, director Jim Sheridan often clashed with Morgan Creek Productions’ on-set representative, Jim Robinson. The conflict between the director and the company became so heated that the company took the rights to the film away from Sheridan in order to produce their own cut.
This prompted retaliation from Sheridan and the film’s two main stars, Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, so much that the three refused to do any press promotion or interviews for the film. The company also came under fire when the trailer for the movie revealed one of the pivotal plot twists, which I will refrain from stating for the benefit of those who haven’t seen said trailer.
Allow me to play the devil’s advocate for a moment. While I can see why it’s a relatively stupid move to reveal one of the major plot twists in the trailer, I believe it helped to accomplish what the company had hoped. It piqued my curiosity, which is the kind of thing a film like this relies on to get people to the theater. With this aspect, it succeeded; however, it doesn’t ruin the movie in the slightest.
The basic story, without giving anything away, follows an editor from a successful publishing company, Will Atenton, played by Daniel Craig, who quits his job in New York to relocate to the New England suburbs with his wife and family. The house they move into carries a tragic history that Will begins to unravel, revealing a tragic crime committed against the former residents, the only lead coming from an enigmatic neighbor from across the street, played by Naomi Watts.
Dream House is part horror film, part psychological thriller and part murder mystery. Unlike the majority of films with this type of blend, this is one of the few that does it right. The story builds up the right amount of suspense, has clever plot twists beyond the one revealed by the trailer and even places subtle clues for the viewer to piece together.
The cinematography and visual effects in this film are stunning, particularly (again without giving too much away) when it transitions between two visual styles, not just with the locations and color schemes, but even with the hair, make-up, and costume worn by Craig. It shows that there was a lot of attention to detail put into this film. While some of the shots are basic, the lighting really sells it.
The acting in this film is also superb, with each of the actors giving a top notch performance. Even the young children are good actors, which is a rarity in most films. The acting also complements the subtext that is throughout the story, creating an atmosphere where nothing is as it seems.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable film and a real breath of fresh air as we begin awards season. For once, we have a film that’s intriguing and artistic that doesn’t pander to the superficial tastes of the Academy. If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers, murder mysteries and just films that are downright bizarre, then this is the film for you. This is also good for people who enjoy things like Lost and Silent Hill, stories that entice you to solve the mystery. I give this film a 5/5. A well crafted mystery that is more approachable than Inception.