Way back in the day when I was in college, my roommate and I were huge Heath Ledger fans. This was pre-Joker Heath Ledger. In high school, we’d loved him in Roar and he was pretty much the only good thing about Ten Things I Hate About You. So we were really into him even when he was in awful movies like The Four Feathers and A Knight’s Tale. Anyway, we heard he was in a movie called The Order and in an interview with him, he said it was about vampires. We went and it was hugely disappointing. It had less than nothing to do with vampires, it had so little to do with vampires that it actually sucked any knowledge that we’d had of vampires out of our brains. We were disappointed, you see?
The same thing happened to me tonight when I saw Dream House. I went in wanting to see a standard haunted house movie with creepy little kids and what I got was half of a goofy haunted house movie and half of a half-baked thriller.
Daniel Craig stars as Will Atenton, a successful publisher leaving his job to work on his DREAM HOUSE. It’s just like in Family Guy when Peter gets happy whenever they mention the name of the movie within the movie!
Things are kind of weird in Will’s neighborhood, though. There’s the neighbor’s ex that has perpetual stinkface, who glares at Will almost as if he knows him. There’s the teenagers sneaking into his basement, telling Will that his house is the site of a slaughter. There’s the fact that his daughters have been seeing a man stalking the outside of the house and that his wife never, ever calls anyone from outside or answers the door.
You see, five years ago, Peter Ward went mental and slaughtered his daughters and wife. But his wife managed to put a shot into Peter, a shot that he survived. Peter was never tried because there was never enough evidence to convict him, he was just placed in a psychiatric ward. From the psych ward he went to a group house and then was actually released. Will thinks that Peter is stalking his family now and goes in search of his former doctors to find out why they released such a psychopath.
Only, the really totally shocking twist is that Will IS Peter Ward. He was unable to deal with the grief of losing his family combined with the possibility that he killed them, so he created a new name for himself based on his hospital I.D. bracelet. W-111 8-10-10 became Will Atenton. Then he moved into the mouldering remains of his old house and resumed his old life there, with his family still alive in his head. Yeah, you find this out about an hour into the movie and from then on, you basically have to forget everything established by the movie as Will-Now-Peter tries to solve who really killed his family, because he had no reason to do it.
Turns out it was a murder for hire gone wrong. Ann Patterson (Naomi Watts), Peter’s neighbor across the street, had just divorced her husband, who’s the guy who keeps giving Peter the side-eye. He hired a goon to kill Ann, but the idiot went into the wrong house and slaughtered Peter’s family. Peter’s wife accidentally shot him while trying to hit the goon. So the disgruntled ex is really displeased when Peter shows up again with his Hannibal Lecter-lite hair, light-wash mom jeans, and pedo jacket. Ann visits Peter in the decrepit house to tell him that he has to move on and that he can’t stay there and become the neighborhood creeper.
It’s against the community bylaws, no creepers allowed. Disgruntled ex and the goon–I don’t think we even learn their names outside of the credits–decide to take this chance to murder Ann correctly this time and to add Peter, since he knows too much. Peter’s dead wife urges him on to fight, either from his mind or from beyond the grave. Disgruntled ex sets the basement on fire and shoots the goon. The goon embiggens the fire and double-crosses the disgruntled ex. Peter escapes…somehow and makes his peace with his dead wife and children that he really didn’t kill. He also rescues Ann and the Moleskin journal he stashed under a loose step. The movie ends with him passing a display of books about his ordeal, called Dream House. Does this count as the movie officially lapping itself? By this point my apathy was palpable and I was grateful to get out of the theater. Thank goodness I’m in Pennsylvania now, so the ticket prices were way cheaper than NY/NJ prices, and my mom paid for the ticket.
The movie Dream House is as if one script writer came up with a decent premise for a haunted house movie, another screenwriter came up with an ok premise for a thriller, and a cost-efficient producer decided to smush them together. The disappointing part is that when the movie started, it had some interesting moments that could have been spooky. But then, an hour in, they literally drop this revelation on you, Daniel Craig starts to look different, and the whole premise becomes simultaneously convoluted and obvious. Aside from pulling the rug out from under you, nothing is scary anymore. There are no more ghosts of a murdered family, just a crazy guy with bad hair. I felt like Millhouse when he was watching the Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie show and he got really upset that they never got to the fireworks factory, that it was just Poochie rapping the whole time. Plus, the movie is really slow. I don’t mean it’s the kind with a slow set-up that lets the action happen later. It felt like it took forever and there were lots of very boring parts. I was certain it was two-hours long but, when I looked it up online, it says it’s only ninety-two minutes. It’s as if the movie only exists to say, “Hey, this is how Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz met!”
The music was actually pretty good, I’ll give the movie that. I’d listen to it if I could forget about the movie.
Honestly, for me, the highlight had nothing to do with the movie. One of the bad guys uses chloroform on Peter and all I can think of was the episode of Community when Annie kept chloroforming the janitor. Watch this clip so you can avoid Dream House.
Yeah, Troy, my whole brain is crying too.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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