Directed by Jim Sheridan
Written by David Loucka
Starring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts
Hero of Irish cinema Jim Sheridan has lobbied unsuccessfully to have his name removed from the credits of Dream House, citing studio recuts after a poor reception at test screenings. While test screenings are terrible way to create art (notoriously, one comment card from a preview of Rain Man asked why Dustin Hoffman’s autistic character disn’t just “snap out of it”) it’s difficult to imagine a version of Dream House that would actually warrant a recommendation.
It’s difficult to know where to begin discussing Dream House as it’s difficult to categorise the film and not in a good way. If it’s meant to be scary, why wait 20 minutes for the first scare, a completely unearned and cheap jump-scare? One thing every scary movie has going for it is the first 10 minutes or so, where you don’t know how scary it’s going to be. Dream House completely wastes this opening tension, with a setup that feels more like a light family comedy about a grumpy dad who learns how to love puppies at Christmas, twinkly choral music and all. A well-executed jump-scare breaks tension, you can’t just throw it in without building towards it. That’s insulting to the audience.
The film is peppered with evidence this kind of slapdash approach. Craig and Watts’ characters need to meet, so a ridiculous and illogical contrivance is employed (hi, I just popped over to tell your daughter off for being accidentally overheard having a private conversation. That’s a thing people do, right?).One character’s attitude screams “obvious villain” from literally the first frame they appear in, all but yelling “BOO” and cackling at the end of every sentence. The phenomenally dumb, predictable and cliche plot twist that occurs halfway through is a game-changer in the worst possible way, kicking the movie from dull to flat-out stupid and featuring a character overexplaining the situation so slowly and repeatedly that it honestly does feel like the movie thinks the audience is impossibly stupid. This particular moment did succeed in breaking tension however, as this was the point where everyone at the screening I attended broke out laughing for the first but certainly not last time.
An unintentionally funny second half and a mercifully short running time aside, there’s really nothing to recommend Dream House at all. Even the very strong cast all deliver disappointingly below-par performances, thrills and shocks are thin on the ground and they underused Elias Koteas.
He was Casey Jones, for God’s sake! Doesn’t that mean anything anymore?