Dream House (2011) Directed by Jim Sheridan
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"How can you live here and not know about the murders?"- teenage trespasser.
Greetings once again, Dr. Heinrich Schadenfreude here, with another cinematic case file to discuss with you today. I am a splinter personality of Talyseon, who is a splinter personality himself, but that is another case for another time. I just like to say I am born of too much caffeine, and not enough sleep, and the influence of too many psychology classes. The movies Talyseon watches don't help either. But that segues us nicely into the movie, Dream House.
Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) is a book editor who is finally quitting his job so that he can spend more time with his family. They have just bought a house out of the city, and Will is going to try his hand at writing while Libby (Rachel Weisz) restores and redecorates the lovely home they have bought. Their daughters Trish (Taylor Geare) and Dee Dee (Claire Geare) make it all worthwhile.
But from the start, there has been something wrong; the neighbors give them the strangest looks, and the girls see someone peering in the windows at them, and slowly, their new dream house takes on an air of menace. It is not until Will catches some teen agers partying in the cellar that the truth comes out; five years ago, the wife and two daughters who lived there were murdered. The suspicion rests on the father, who is now committed to an insane asylum. The Atenton family is living in the Peter Ward Slaughter House.
But as Will tries to find out more about the tragedy that took place in his house, he finds not only are people reluctant to talk about it, they are obviously deeply fearful...the only person who seems to be willing to treat him with anything approaching normality is Ann Patterson (Naomi Watts) the neighbor across the street. And she has problems of her own, in the person of her very bitter ex, Jack (Marton Csokas). And then there is the intruder, lurking on the edge of their property...and the fact that Peter Ward was released from Greenhaven Sanitarium five days ago....
This is a movie about a haunted house, and a man tormented by the ghosts of past tragedy. And yet, the watcher is left to wonder, where is this haunting taking place? In the blood soaked halls of a lovely home in a nice quiet neighborhood, or with in the mind of a very disturbed individual? Are there ghosts, or is this the work of madness? The movie leaves you with a decision to make on this subject, and as in so many genuine cases, with dubious pieces of evidence that support both theories. I am most happy to report that the movie is almost, ALMOST, devoid of the "Gotcha!" moment, which can be used with such good effect, but is often over done.
Of course, with any psychological thriller, it hinges on the capabilities of the actors. Daniel Craig is a fabulous actor, but often for his unreadable mask; I think of James Bond here, clearly a case of Narcissistic Personality disorder, with a heavy dollop of sociopathy. Often Craig succeeds because he doesn't act. However, I am delighted to report, the man's range does indeed include the subtle nuances needed to pull off this role.
Equally dependant on what she is not saying is the role of Ann Patterson, the neighbor. Naomi Watts is a wonderfully expressive woman; I am happy to report she can play her cards close to the vest as well. Rachel Weisz can act in anything, and she does not disappoint.
I would also like to mention the leibschens, the little girls, real life sisters Taylor and Claire Geare. What charming little creatures they are, and so believable. I suspect this is a combination of brilliance in casting, and very strong talent beginning to emerge. At anyrate, I predict these girls will be two to watch.
There is a persistent rumor that the studio seized control of the production to make the movie they wanted, and that neither the director Jim Sheridan, nor Mr. Craig, nor Ms. Weisz were pleased with the final results. All I can say to that is that I should dearly love to see the movie they would have made, because this one captivated me thoroughly.
This Case file is also submitted to the Study "It's Elementary, My Dear Watson!" Mystery Write Off.
Movie Mood: Scary Movie
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Nothing