Five years prior, a woman and her two young children were shot to death there. The kids' father, Peter Ward, survived the attack and ended up being the prime suspect. There wasn't enough evidence to convict him, but due to his state of mind, Peter was eventually sent to a psychiatric hospital. When the Atentons find out that Peter was recently released, and they begin seeing a shadowy figure lurking around the house, they fear that the suspected murderer has returned to reclaim his territory.
The End Result
So, is the final cut really that bad? No; with the talent involved, it would certainly never be the next Birdemic. However, the promise of the script that attracted such high-end cast and crew vanishes in what feels like film torn apart and cobbled together from the scattered remnants. What remains is a shockingly shallow and predictable suspense flick that provides little beyond one major twist (that the trailer gives away -- spoiler alert). While the marketing might make you think Dream House is some sort of haunted house pic, there's only the slightest hint of any spectral goings-on; in fact, it's a murder mystery, and a tepid one at that.
There are some attempts to inch Dream House into the is-it-haunted-or-not horror realm, but they never rouse the vaguest amount of fear or terror. The thrills are stilted and perfunctory, and given the movie was gutted by the studio, it's hard to say how much of the final cut's shortcomings are Sheridan's fault. Did they do the best with what they were given, or did they fail to see Sheridan's genius? The truth is probably somewhere in between. It's a shame, because this movie had the potential to be Black Swan-esque in its blend of horror, psychological thriller and dramatic character study, but all we're left with is a hollow shell of that promise.
- Acting: C+ (The cast is a high point in a film without many high points, but they can do only so much with this script.)
- Direction: C- (Uneven emotion, misplaced thrills, lacking in suspense or artistry.)
- Script: D (Promising, but aside from the one major plot twist, ends up being a routine murder mystery.)
- Gore/Effects: C (Little need for gore; the CGI effects are solid but could've been integrated more into the story.)
- Overall: C- (A missed opportunity for something unique and striking.)
Dream House is directed by Jim Sheridan and is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for violence, terror, some sexuality and brief strong language. Release date: September 30, 2011.