Review: Dream House (2011)


Dream House is living in a dream of its own – one where it believes it has substance and entertainment value. Two steps away from campy; the film insults viewers with its complete disregard of how modern society actually functions. It conveniently forgets the parameters of things like the law, psychology and the judicial system. The needlessly illogical progression of the plot leaves viewers with permanently furrowed brows. Dream House moves from being painfully predictable to stupidly grabbing at an original end in the blink of an eye.

With the star potential Dream House’s cast amasses, it looks as though it will impress. But sometimes even the best of talent can’t withstand a horrible screenplay. Daniel Craig plays a distinguished writer who relocates his wife, played by Rachel Weisz, and two small children to a large country fixer-upper so he can work on his novel. When the gruesome truth of the house’s history starts to come out, things begin to fall apart for Craig’s perfect world. Naomi Watts flits in and out of the scene as the compassionate neighbor who acts like she has all the answers, but ends up being completely worthless.

Motivation for any and all action throughout the film is scarce. In the end, the horrible events that occur are nothing more than the result of an “oops” moment. This dues ex machina cheapens Craig’s personal struggle and increases audience’s confusion.

Visually, Dream House could be looked at as quite lovely. The cinematography is rich and, what is more important, expressive. The colors and lighting shift appropriately with the tone of the film (which is rapidly changing). An acute attention to sounds is obvious throughout the film as well. Even the score is something to be noted. Beautifully orchestral, it enhances the mood perfectly. It swells joyfully, creating an almost too good to be true feeling, and drones ominously when appropriate.

Director Jim Sheridan successfully navigates the different worlds of Craig’s mind, yet it gives the audience very little room for interpretation or thought. It’s puzzling to see Sheridan move from something as beautiful as Brothers to this, but I’m sure that working on so many illustrious films in his career has allowed him some wiggle room. It’s obvious that he is a master at what he does. Even in Dream House, Sheridan’s skill shows through the pall.

The film clutches furiously at efforts at metaphor and symbolism, but there are only so many ways you can represent a man fighting with his own subconscious. Unfortunately for Dream House, the whole “ghosts as manifestations of personal struggles” thing has already been used up. And yes, we understand that the word dream is loaded with both literal and figurative meaning. We don’t need to be beaten over the head with it.

While Dream House is pegged as a psychological thriller, it also feels like a horror, a drama, a romance and an action mashed into one. Jumping back and forth between mindsets is tiresome. There are some really well done aspects of Dream House, but they just aren’t enough to save it. Dream House is indecisive and feels like every popular psychological thriller of the last ten years forced into one, but unfortunately none of it fits.

20/100 - Dream House is a disappointing waste of talent and potential. With no discernable genre to take solace in, the film darts from one plot point to the next, making sorry attempts at fighting predictability.

Jocelyn Codner

Film has has given me some of the best experiences and memories of my life, from connecting with my family to getting closer to my friends. I graduated from Ithaca College's Roy H. Park School of Communications with a degree in Screewnriting and a goal to one day see my work on the big screen. Until that day, I occupy my time with watching and enjoying the work of others and discussing it with all of you!
  • Christopher Misch

    I had no idea Dream House was directed by Jim Sheridan. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

  • Christopher Misch

    I had no idea Dream House was directed by Jim Sheridan. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

  • Sammy V

    Ugh. I’m so disappointed about Dream House. So much talent gone to waste. 

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