Moviegoers have many expectations for films. By looking up the trailers for the film, you immediately get a sense of what its genre is and thus what basic plot elements, character types and overall tone of the film should be. Occasionally, trailers can be misleading, leading moviegoers to see movies that don’t meet their expectations entirely, if at all. “Dream House” is one such film, as it does not meet any of the expectations set up by the trailer or its classified genre. That said, it is still a decent film that’s been getting a bad reputation.
“Dream House,” directed by Jim Sheridan (“Brothers”), is a thriller film about an aspiring writer named Will Atenton (Daniel Craig), who moves with his wife Libby (Rachel Weisz), and their children to a suburban house in order to start a new life. They soon discover that the last family who lived in the house was murdered. From there things start to happen around the house. It’s not exactly an original setup and one might be able to guess what might happen from the trailer. Halfway through the movie, the big plot twist is revealed and the movie’s genre changes entirely and becomes a different film altogether, for better or worse.
The genre shift is supported by Craig’s very convincing performance as Atenton, showing a very confused man with a traumatic past. It makes the transition very plausible and believable, if a tad disorienting. However, the transition is supposed to be disorienting and surreal, making it fit the harsh realization of the protagonist. There is a bad side to the transition: the expectations established for the horror/thriller going audience are not met. People paid their money to be scared, but the movie doesn’t fail to do that.
For all its flaws, the film is still fairly competent. The acting is very good, which isn’t surprising considering the film’s all-star cast. Craig probably gives the best performance in the film, however, Weisz and Naomi Watts as the neighbor Ann Patterson, give fairly convincing performances. The only actor who seems kind of lack luster is Marton Csokas who plays Ann’s husband Jack. Admittedly the script doesn’t really give him very much to do until the end, so he is never really given a chance to play with his character.
The film’s cinematography is also notable. Very well shot, every frame is great to look at and fits the tone of the film. As a whole the film goes from a “something-in the-shadows-or-out-of-frame” thriller style to a more “mystery-esque” spin on those concepts, with a more subtle transition than the narratives’ transition.
Despite unmet expectations, “Dream House” is still a fairly well made film. With an open mind and refreshed expectations, it’s a very interesting movie. However, if one actually wants a frightening, psychological thriller, then they will find themselves disappointed.