As Bad As You Thought?: Dream House
I know I promised you all that I would tackle the Halle Berry travesty, Catwoman this week; but at the video store i came across this gem, Dream House and I remembered hearing the tales that arose from it’s production and that the director got so fed up with his working conditions he refused to take credit for it. I felt it was my duty nay obligation to recap this movie instead for the betterment of humanity, and because it’s my weekly bit and I can do what I want and you can’t stop me. Currently it seems the hot sub genre in horror has become the oldy but always a goody haunted house, replacing the torture spell the genre went through for a while. With films like Insidious and the Paranormal Activity flicks making bank on a relatively small budget it was only a matter of time until a Hollywood suit decided to test out the formula with a massive budget. Sparing no expense mega stars Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and Naomi Watts were all cast in the lead roles and director Jim Sheridan of My Left Foot and In America fame was set to lead. But as many have learned the hard way a huge budget does not a good film make. After hearing all the negative reviews and all the stories about how the studio wrecked the film and took it out of Sheridan’s hands it is about time that I see if this movie is as bad as I thought.
It’s never a good sign when the “spooky” chanting that plays over your scary movie’s opening credits only serves to remind me of the Craig Ferguson stand up bit about helping during childbirth. Once the movie gets rolling the first thing we see is Daniel Craig on his apparent last day at his office, he looks incredibly bored as people in moving suits immediately file in upon his signing his separation papers and begin packing his stuff. Man, on the last day of my last job they just put my stuff in a bag and put it somewhere and did not bother telling me where, is this typical the every office? Maybe if I were also an MI-6 agent I’d have gotten a little more respect. Oh, right the movie, sorry i was showing as much interest in it as Craig was in what is going on around him. Everybody glad hands him and wishes him fair well as he leaves and tells people he is going to spend more time with his family. As he leaves an eldery woman gives him the contact information of a contractor he’ll need in Fairfax County, Craig thanks her with a warm (well not reall warm but the intent is there) hug, leaving me to wonder, who is she?
On the train ride home, Craig stares longingly out the window in the caboose of the train until another person joins him in the car, shattering his moody solitude, as if the presence of this peasant offends him so, Craig takes one look at the guy and walks out. The train stops and he runs into a woman who gives him a ride to his house, apparently she’s his real estate agent which is weird because he acts like he’s never seen her in his life. So far the guy has acted like an arrogant douche who just kind of stares at things longingly but everyone seems to bend over backwards for him, great relate able protagonist, movie. He sees his wife out on the porch and throws a snowball at her before running up and passionately kissing her. Who the hell is this guy?! What happened to the mopey douche I’ve been watching? She seems happy that he did “it”, I guess he has not told her he quit his job and they no longer have a source of income. He acts like the warm family man around his kids and his wife which leads he and his wife having a sweet romantic moment in bed that night (not that way you perv!) while some kind of flame is obviously in the corner, I guess they’re so in live they don’t notice the arson going on.
The next day Craig shovels snow outside as his neighbor, Naomi Watts sees her kid off who is off to spend time with the father who clearly has some anger and mental issues to work through, yeah I’d leave my kid with that guy. Watts’ ex-husband seems especially fond of staring Daniel Craig down, and you never do that to Bond and expect to live. Inside his wife, Rachel Weisz paints and cleans the new walls only to discover the height of the previous kids marked off on the wall. Gee I wonder if that has anything to do with anything. Randomly we go to the office of obnoxious ex husband of his neighbor who gets an email about the custody battle over his daughter, and then back to the Daniel Craig Rachel Weisz house, where his daughters are scared of a man in their room (dun dun dun), but Craig justifies it as being their own reflection, and just then a branch swings into the window, startling them off, but then they just laugh it off. If I had just bought a new house and a branch swung so close that it hit my window, I would not find it so funny, but that’s just me. The next day while doing some yard work, Craig notices footprints in the snow which lead to the point where his daughters claimed to have seen the man the night before, nope no ghost movie cliches here.
The next night, Craig is awakened by a knocking noise and of course has to investigate, giving women who are watching a nice view of his perfectly sculpted physique, but once he enters the hallway he mysteriously has on not one but TWO whole shirts, must not have been in that much of a hurry to see what was going on that he took the time to make sure he had on clothes and then extra clothes, sorry ladies. He journeys into the dark, well dimly lit, well fairly well lit basement, to find voices coming from behind an old
wooden door, and to his shock and horror he finds…a group of emo kids in his damn basement, WTF?! That is the lamest bit of breaking and entering I’ve ever seen. They seem to be going through with some local ghost summoning folklore when he breaks up the party. He chases them down and gets them to stop and talk to him, because what delinquent teenagers do in those situation when they’re trying to run away from a pissed off adult. The whole, keep running until they lose the will to follow thing is not hip with the kids anymore I guess. The girl he catches is very earnest about the fact that they did not know anybody lived there, I guess the cars in the drive way and the lights on in the house did not clue them in, but they were partaking in a local haunted house custom, as dumb kids (and often times adults, don’t judge me) often do, because a guy allegedly killed his whole family a few years before in the house. After they leave Craig once again ventures into the secret room in his basement to find it lit by candle light complete with misshapen and creepy dolls and scary graffiti on the wall and all the standard generic spooky room stuff you get when you hire the guy who puts on the local haunted hay ride as your interior decorator. How has he not noticed this room before? It seems to me when the real estate agent he never met before was showing him around, it might come up, “hey there’s a secret room full of scary haunted house crap in the basement” “Oh yes, sorry Mr. Bond, you see kids like to break into the house on a regular basis, don’t worry you’ll get used to it.”
The morning after, he finds the local police chief in a diner and questions them about the suposed murder in his house. Who is less than helpful about the whole ordeal, it seems like if a gruesome unsolved murder occurred in your sleepy New England town you would know the details and tell the guy now living in the crime scene. When he gets home he finds his daughters terrified because they overheard the neighbor girl talking about the fact that “everyone who lives here gets killed” and that’s the line for the trailer. Scared little kids who see and hear creepy things that freak out the parents, nice innovative and original scare, movie. Since he’s not used to freedom of speech and people in the 21st century saying dumb things in public on
their mobile phones he goes across the street (wasn’t it next door earlier in the movie) to have a stern talking to. He finds his neighbor is awesome creeped out by the house and the events that happened. Come nightfall, Weisz finds her hubby in the basement painting over the evil graffiti and forces him to tell her about the murders, and he even jokes about hiring a priest to do a cleansing, how many cliches can you fit in a single movie? Then Weisz sees someone in the shadows outside, so Craig once again goes to investigate and walks through the fence that mysteriously has appeared and falls down a hill chasing the shadowy man who is no longer there dundundun!!!!! You know I’m starting to empathize with Sheridan, I wouldn ‘t want my name attached to this so far, this movie so far seems like it’s been directed by a robot that is programmed to only film standard generic horror movie bits that have been done to death already.
The morning Weisz and Craig find their children missing and frantically search for them until, they discover them in yet another secret room, who built this house, Bruce Wayne? They discovered the secret playroom by falling through a wall the oldest sister says, between that and the endless secret passages, I have to wonder if any kind of official inspected the house at all. And that leads us to our next cliche scene, the obsessive Daniel Craig researching the events via microfiche, except instead of a library basement he’s using a flashlight in his bedroom, which is actually kind of funny in a completely unintentional way. Later on Naomi Watts comes by and tries to make friendly by delivering soup and introduces herself as, Ann Patterson (because bland generic names are cool) but takes off upon seeing Weisz who is also getting mopey and obsessive about the whole ordeal, standing in the spot where the wife was murdered, gasp! She discovers that the psychotic dad who murdered the family is in a halfway house and he goes to track him down. Once there he talks to the receptionist who knows him some how and is placing letters in the mail slots for everybody, and then Craig sees that the name of one of the slots is, Peter Ward, the murderer himself which leads to Craig staring down the evil murderous label for a few moments before he goes to look for the woman in charge. He sneaks away to the guys room while we are treated to the standard suspenseful horror movie music that has been used so often that Eddie Izzard had a good laugh making fun of it. He discovers a picture of his family in the man’s room and freaks out on the guy who walked up behind him, which is hard to get behind him with because the poor man looks like Nick Frost…oh and he’s a different guy, the murderer is out on the loose again, Nick Frost is just a guy wondering who the guy wandering around was, and how did the guy walk right into Ward’s room, hmmmmmmmm……
back at home a car pulls up in Craig’s drive way and when he goes to investigate (as per usual) the driver tries to run our hero down before taking off, well not really taking off very slowly right as the cops drive up, coming from the direction where they can keep going straight and easily catch the guy. The police get out and try to calm down Mr. Craig who was understandably freaked out about almost being vehicular homicided. I understand the filmmaking robot is trying to create the crucial cliche of the town keeping a secret about the murder house, but there must have been a malfunction because the police just come off as stupid and inept instead of secretive, especially when given the fact that I could have gotten out of my car and walked to the end of the street and gotten the guy driving like a psycho, I mean they should still protect Craig even though…waitaminute that’s the plot twist coming up. Daniel Craig is ready to make a stand for justice and goes to the asylum that Mr. Ward was held at and show him the surveillance footage of a completely mad, Ward tearing up stuff worse than a puppy being house broken and in a shocking twist (if by shocking I mean obvious) Naomi Watts was visiting him in the asylum proving she knows more than she’s let on, oh snap! Ward in true Norman Bates fashion eschewed his old identity and refused to go be called Ward anymore, and in fact they go back to discover that the man in the security footage is now none other than James Bond himself, Daniel Craig. You see he changed his name from Peter Ward to escape what he had done and took on the name of Will Atenton, because his serial number was WL 81010, get it?! At this point the script writer has pulled in a plot point from left field. They seriously did the whole; the main character was the bad guy all along bit without any kind of heads up or building up the story line for a pay off, they just reached a point where they realized they needed to end the movie and this seemed like just a good a way as any.
So now a distraught now murderer Daniel Craig makes a phone call to his wife and while walking down the corridors all the people he knew are now patients in the hospital clamoring for him. He leaves and goes back to his house and finds it is dilapidated and vandalized all to hell. He goes inside and his hallucianted family comfort him as he starts running a severe fever. He falls asleep and wakes up to discover his whole family is also incredibly ill and the house in the fantasy is starting to resemble the house in fantasy land. Of course the illness of the children leads to the fact they were shot to be revealed and they die. This dramatic *chuckle* scene is interrupted when city officials condemn the house and board it up. Naomi Watts approaches him and tries to comfort the crazy murderer who is now homeless. When he tries to go back inside a guy with a flashlight tells him he can’t go in there because it;s condemned (then how did he get in?) but he its a creepy guy with a hoodie, a true authority figure.
The next morning he goes over to Naomi Watts’ house because she’s being hospitable to the crazy man. This movie has already gone on waaaaaay past the point it should have ended. She reveals that she is skeptical that he did the deed and leaves him alone with her teenage daughter as she goes to draw him a bath because murderer or not that’s what you do for crazy people, naturally abusive dad with a mad on for Daniel Craig picks up the teenage daughter, gee could he be the murderer I wonder? Naturally the mysterious older woman from the beginning of the movie was his therapist who offers to help him, but he refuses and goes back to his old house. His imaginary family retell the events of the night of their death and Watts comes over to reveal that the guy in the hoodie killed them under the orders of Mr. Abusive Ex Husband From Across the Street, who conviniently appear and attack Craig. Apparently creepy guy was supposed to kill Watts and killed Weisz instead. The pair decide to finish the murdering job, and the movie descends into the true depths of stupidity if it had not already. It turns out the ghost of Rachel Weisz (I honestly would not mind her haunting me but that’s a different story) is watching on as he drags the two down to the basement and sets a fire to finish them off. She starts using her ghost powers to distract the guy long enough for Craig to come to and fight back. Craig and Watts get away and the two bad guys are burned alive in the house. It would seem to be a happy ending except Craig reverts back to crazy mode (and he was doing so well) and runs back in to save his ghost wife and even she’s tired of dealing with him and sends him on his way after telling everyone good bye. After all the excitement, Daniel Craig moves back to the city, where a novel about the events has become a best seller because if Twilight can do it I suppose any book can.
Was it as bad as I thought? Painfully so. The first half of the movie plays up like it’s the haunted house movie that it was advertised to be and it uses every blatant cliche in a horror movie ever to play that part, Then we get the plot twist and most movies would end with that but instead Dream House just presses on with it, easily going on for an extra half hour more than it should have. Overall the movie just seems like pieces from several other movies just kind of thrown together with a bored looking Daniel Craig phoning his performance. Some bad movies are worth watching for their silly camp value, sadly this is not one of those.