Jim Sheridan‘s latest film, Dream House, is a messy thriller that stars overqualified actors. It’s a production that sounded great, but ended up falling apart before even reaching the big screen. Dream House tries its luck as a suspenseful thriller and fails, but then it tries its luck as a supernatural thriller and fails even harder. It’s a poor film directed by a more than capable filmmaker and starring three great performers. How did it go so wrong?
Family man Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) quits his job and is looking forward to working on a novel from home, in the comfort of his loving wife Libby (Rachel Weisz) and their two daughters. He’s living the dream life in a dream house. Things slowly start to crumble for Will, first in the form of odd glances from onlookers and then in the form of troubled kids rallying up in his basement and neighbors closing their door when he seeks answers. He finds out some history on his lovely house, which ends up not being so lovely.
A man named Peter Ward allegedly murdered his wife and two kids some time ago and now Will and his family’s presence are stirring up a fuss with the locals. Determined to get to the bottom of the houses mysterious past, Will sets off to find out more about the murder and what happened to him.
That’s as far as anyone should go when it comes to discussing Dream House. Universal Studios made the biggest mistake while promoting the film last September. The first full-length trailer not only spoils the second act twist, but it makes the whole first half an extremely big waste of time. You go into the film already knowing the truth (or at least most of it), thus making the first 35 to 45 minutes a tired exercise of discovery. The film isn’t to be faulted for the studios mistake though. Jim Sheridan directs Dream House without much flare or characteristics. It’s a rather flat looking picture, full of gloomy and dark set pieces.
The real mystery isn’t all that much of a mystery, whether you were prematurely exposed to it or not. It’s awfully familiar, treading the same waters as many films before it. When things start falling apart towards the end of the film, both in terms of the production of the film and the story of the film, you’ll feel a little lost and a little upset with how it all closes out. When Dream House fails to be a thriller it tries throwing in a supernatural element that only feels more out of place than the actors that signed onto the film: Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz.
Something must have steered them in this films direction. Why else would such A-list talent throw themselves at a questionable premise? I’d imagine it was director Jim Sheridan, who has tried his hardest to get his name off the film.
No one will ever know the exact reasons behind why Dream House ended up being such a throwaway film, but I’d point a finger at the studios and their decisions to sometimes take over a project from a director. Maybe though, Jim Sheridan really did have a bomb on his hands at they were just doing damage control?
All I know is there is really no reason for anyone to ever watch Dream House, unless they just can’t get enough or Craig, Watts or Weisz, which still isn’t a valid excuse because even talent like them can’t keep this movie afloat.
Dream House comes to Blu-Ray with another soft 1080p video transfer by Universal Studios. The image is lacking any real strong detail or clarity. It comes off looking kind of smudgy and flat. Blacks are dark and there’s not really any noticeable grain, which keeps the transfer still looking presentable for a big studio film.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track mirrors the video transfer, coming off as restraint and of low volume. Dialogue anchors down the front channels, while the back ones add in the occasional surround effect. Not the most engaging track by any means, but I’ve heard much worse.
The film comes to Blu-Ray with a small array of bonus content that is short in length and primarily focused on the house the film takes place in. I would have loved to hear more about the troubled production, but I’m sure the studio kept that on the down low. Here’s a full list below.
- Burning Down the House (HD): A behind-the-scenes look at how the visual effects team burned down the house during some of the ending sequences. This is probably the best feature on the disc because it really goes to show how much behind-the-scenes work goes into doing something as simple as burning down a building. A lot of people and a lot of planning just to achieve some flames.
- The Dream Cast (HD): Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts and director Jim Sheridan discuss the casting of the film. Each actor compliments the other while Sheridan adds his overall comments on the quality of the cast and how fortunate he was to have assembled such a team.
- Building the Dream House (HD): Another look at the notorious dream house. This time the feature focuses on how they went about building the house and making it transform as the film moved along.
- A Look Inside (HD): A short EPK that features the trailer mostly, with quick cuts of the cast talking about the project. It’s not all that different from the actual trailer.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD)
- DVD Copy
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
It still flusters me every time I watch Dream House. Jim Sheridan follows up his tense family drama, Brothers, with a puzzled thriller that takes the best moments from other films and fails miserably recreating them. Why would someone waste talent like Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts on a film that could have been made with a bunch of nobodies and still feel like a film with no direction? Dream House is one of the most forgettable films of 2011 and saying that still feels like I’m giving the film too much credit.
The Blu-Ray is another stable release from Universal that doesn’t really impress, but isn’t all that bad. The disc is just as forgettable as the movie, with a soft video transfer and a gentle audio track. The special features are focused on the house, which doesn’t even play that big of a role in the film to begin with. A DVD copy and an UltraViolet digital copy help close out the packaging, adding value to a valueless film.