Silver Screen: Dream House *1/2
The only thing surprising about the dull, utterly scare-less ghost story Dream House is that it was directed by Jim Sheridan, best known as a creator of heavy dramas about underdogs and the underclass, from the inspirational My Left Foot to examinations of the Irish political conflicts in The Boxer and In the Name of the Father to the autobiographical In America.
True enough, Sheridan did direct the misbegotten 50 Cent biopic Get Rich or Die Tryin', but that wasn't as strange a choice as it seems. Sheridan's take on Fitty's early years was an exploration of ghetto life in a similar vein to In America's take on the immigrant experience-- unfortunately, whatever social-consciousness themes he was trying to get across got lost in the mumbling and bumbling that makes up 50 Cent's truly awful acting.
Dream House is far more inexplicable. This sleepy little genre exercise is a generic ghost story that seems as if it could easily be made by anyone, and in fact has already been made by several somebodies. I'd try to avoid giving too much away by saying it's reminiscent of The Sixth Sense, The Others, and Shutter Island, among others, but anybody who has seen any of these films will be hard pressed not to recognize the same tricks at work. It's difficult to imagine anything in Dream House catching anyone by surprise.
Daniel Craig stars as Will, a recently retired book editor who takes up residence in a roomy suburban house with his wife Libby (Rachel Weisz) and two daughters. During the course of remodeling, they learn that the family who previously lived there was murdered by the husband during a rampage. At the same time they spot a mysterious figure lurking in the trees outside the windows. Neither the police nor the neighbors seem to express any interest in helping them.
In fact, nobody seems to express anything to Will that makes much sense. His interactions with everyone outside his family are so vague and cold and strange that there's obviously something more going on. Nearly an hour into the movie, the twist is revealed, which doesn't surprise viewers so much as come as a relief that we can give up the faç ade and at least the movie can now potentially go somewhere original.
Not so. An hour of maladroit psychological thrills then gives way to a mini-murder mystery whose villain is clumsily foreshadowed (let's play a game of Spot the Prominent Character Actor in the Seemingly Miniscule and Unimportant Role), and the resolution is entirely uninteresting thanks to the lack of interest generated during the first hour. Dream House is the kind of movie that dares you to fall asleep, but if you did, you'd have no trouble catching up when you awoke.
Craig, Weisz, and costar Naomi Watts, playing their neighbor, all do passable work, but it's a downer to see them putting genuine effort into something so empty. I would assume they were drawn to the project by Sheridan's involvement, which is an understandable sentiment. But the typically sure-handed, thoughtful Sheridan doesn't show up here, proving that good, pulpy filmmaking is more difficult than it looks.
Follow Bryan Miller on Twitter @bmillercomedy.