Dream House (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Dream House (2011)

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Let me tell you straight away that I'm going to be ruining the plot of Dream House for you, but there really isn't much to ruin. Hell, you shouldn't watch it anyway, at least not sober.

Also, this is going to be a pretty long review, but by reading it you'll get credit for having watched the film without spending $8.50. So grab something to take the edge off, brace yourself and let's try to get through this as quickly as possible.

Dream House sucks. Sorry, that's not very descriptive. Dream House is a terrible mess of a film that can't do a damn thing right. It bills itself as a haunted house story, but it's presented as more of a psychological thriller without the thrills and one of the most poorly executed “twists” I think I've ever seen.

Daniel Craig is Will Atenten, a family man who...what? Yes, Atenten. How's that pronounced, you ask? A-Ten-Ten. Yes, like the number. Yes, that's how people actually pronounce it and, yes, it really does sound as awkward as you think.

Bill Nighy is Tim Roth as Daniel Craig in The Daniel Craig Story!

Anyway, this guy quits his job in the city and moves out to the country to spend more time with his loving family that he loves so much. Oh, and to write a book or something.

Well, things don't go as planned. Turns out a murder took place in his house some years back. The mother and two daughters were killed out-right, while the father, Peter Ward, was only wounded and sent to a psychiatric hospital. But legend says that he's gotten out and now he's back for revenge! Revenge for what? Who cares! Spooky!

And, sure enough, the family Atenten does start to see a suspicious stranger lurking around their house at night. Has Peter Ward come to back to reek more mayhem? Craig goes to the police, but they seem reluctant to help. In fact, the whole town seems to avoid talking about Peter Ward or the murders. What are they hiding? What is the terrible secret? Will Daniel Craig react to anything? Ever?!

Eventually, and by “eventually” I mean after 30 or so minutes of wandering around with absolutely nothing happening, Craig learns that Mr. Ward was recently released from the local mental hospital and Atenten goes there looking for answers. The head doctor decides to answer his questions by showing him a series of security videos. He could just answer Craig's questions, you know, like a normal human being, but instead he builds it up, like it's going to be the overwrought twist in a crappy horror movie.

And guess what we've got here? I've been talking a lot lately about films that don't “hold your hand” because I think that doing so is an insult to an audience's intelligence. Well, Dream House doesn't just hold your hand for the twist, it literally spells it out for you. Like I said, Craig's character thinks that his name is Will Atenten. Turns out, he's actually Peter Ward, the father who allegedly killed his family and spent the past five years in an institution. Why doesn't Craig remember this? Well, you see, he couldn't bring himself to believe that he was the killer, so he created a new name for himself using the serial number on his medical bracelets: W11L 81010. Will Atenten.


Tommy Lee Jones is Sam Neil in...you know what? Forget it...

But the cherry on this shit sundae? When the chief physician at the hospital explains this to Craig, not only is he holding the bracelet up to the camera, he explains how used the seemingly random letters and numbers to make his new pseudonym. Twice. He explains it TWICE.

Fucking seriously. With his finger touching each letter like it's following the bouncing fucking ball.

Craig then transforms into the spitting image of Rutger Hauer in Hobo With a Shotgun and stumbles out of the office to find, surprise, all the coworkers who wished him off in the beginning of the film were really mental patients. Dun dun dun!

Well, now the twist is out of the way and we still have half of the film left. How should we pass the time? Well, Craig/Atenten/Ward/8 10 10/whatever decides that he's going to figure out who killed his family, even if it's himself.

He goes back to the old family house, long since abandoned and defaced by angry townspeople and teenagers. Or is it? His long-dead family appear before his eyes, acting as if nothing has happened. When he tries to tell them that they're dead and he may have killed him, his wife tells him that it must be the fever talking. Oh, and I guess he got a fever somewhere in there. Maybe his wife caused it with her ghost powers. Ooooooooh.

On this episode of The Real Ghost Housewives...

What follows are a series of scenes wherein Craig and Weisz argue about whether or not she's a ghost. And he goes and visits with his neighbor, Naomi Watts. Did I mention her? Well, she exists. And she's got an ex-husband who is a scenery chewing giant douche, and that isn't suspicious at all. Oh, and Elias Koteas keeps driving by in a truck and looking mysterious and shit. Will this semi-famous character actor play some crucial role in the last couple of minutes? Probably.

Oh, and at some point Mr. Math Problem hears a knock on his door. Turns out it's the city who's there to slap him on the wrist for returning to the scene of the crime, meaning that they're going to board-up his front door and tell him to go away. What does Craig do? He just walks around to the side of the house, opens the backdoor and goes back to arguing with his dead wife about the status of her mortality.

At this point I no longer wondered if everyone in this film is functionally retarded; I knew it.

So did Mr. 81010 really kill his family? Nope, turns out it was a gunman (Elias Koteas, would you believe it?) hired by his neighbor's evil husband so that he could get sole custody of his daughter.

What's that you say? That doesn't make sense? Oh, they explain that, too. Turns out, the gunman got the address wrong. Yup, Evil Husband hires a man to kill his wife, but doesn't bother giving the guy a picture of his wife, or even bothering to find someone who follow simple directions! You know, if they were next door neighbors, maybe I could buy that, but the 81010 house was across the fucking street! If you can't tell your left from your right, you don't deserve to leave kindergarten, let alone kill people for a living.

This major revelation comes in the last ten minutes of the movie in everyone's favorite bad movie cliche (after “it was all a dream”): the exposition dump. Mr. Evil Husband knocks out Craig and Watts, betrays his dyslexic co-conspirator, and begins dousing the house in gas. You know, so that when he shoot his wife and Craig, it'll look like Craig snapped, killed a random guy, killed his neighbor, set his house on fire, and then shot himself. Even to a crazy person that must sound overly complicated.

You're probably thinking that the film can't sink much lower than this, but, oh ho ho, you have not seen the proverbial shit.

Let me preface this by saying that I almost enjoyed Dream House. Granted, the acting was wooden, the plot laughable, and the writing atrocious. It was scary, nor was it particularly tense, or suspenseful or shocking or whatever emotion the team was aiming for. But I did like how Craig kept battling Weisz to get to the truth about his past. I interpreted it as a man literally wrestling with his subconscious, trying to get past the mental blocks put in place by his traumatic past in order to get to the truth, no matter how ugly or unpleasant. Was it still clunky and bland? Sure, but conceptually it was interesting, and I think that a better writer, a better cast, a better director could have done something interesting with that premise.

Having said that, how does Dream House end? Well, turns out that Weisz wasn't just a symbolic representation of Craig's repressed memories and sorrow, but an actual ghost. As Evil Husband is burning the place down, Weisz (I don't even remember he character's name; do you really care?) starts knocking over things in their basement to distract him and give Craig time to wake up and get the drop on Evil Husband. That's right, the antagonist is distracted by wind chimes and boxes being nudged in a basement that is ON FIRE.

The raging inferno elicits mild concern from Miss Watts.

Well, Craig wakes up, knocks out Evil Husband, saves Naomi Watts and escapes the burning house. Once Watts is safe, though, Craig runs back into the house to be with his ghost family. You're probably assuming that there's a touching moment here where the family tells him that they love him, but that he needs to move on and live his life... but it's really not that touching.

But the film's not over just yet! With Ghost Wife appeased, Watts safe and Evil Husband dead, Craig wanders off into the world to rebuild his shattered life. The final scene opens sometime later and we're back in the city. Craig walks past a bookstore and, with a face which reveals no emotion what-so-ever, pauses to look at the new #1 bestseller on display:

Dream House: Based on a True Story by Peter Ward.

Congratulations, you just got a perfect score in “Shitty Horror Cliche' Bingo!" Kill me.

So, is there any redeemable quality to Dream House? Well, it's probably the most unintentionally funny film I've seen since The Room. If that's worth your $8.50, knock yourself out. Otherwise, don't bother. Ever.

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Posted by Jacob

Comments (6) Trackbacks (0)
  1. i thought the movie was decent… i thought it was misleading but the plot was good

  2. I thought it was a pretty good movie

  3. I thought it was a really good movie.

  4. It was pretty good actually, found this review to be totally opposite of my opinion. 5 stars!

  5. I just finished watching it. And I can see some of your points, but for 2011 it was still a pretty good movie.

  6. Just watched this movie,it had me glued right until the end it was actually a really good movie a little confusing but so intriguing.

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