Friday, April 6, 2012

Review: Dream House

The low-lying fruit in Hollywood is the horror genre.  How else can you explain 42 sequels to Saw and 30 incarnations of Final Destination.  Okay, so there aren’t that many; it only feels that way.  But really, horror films are incredibly polarizing.   You rarely find anyone who is ambivalent.  People tend to be on one side of the aisle or the other.  Those, who are on the side that does not mind cheap scares and a little bit of gore to go with their popcorn and soda, are a loyal bunch.  Having seen Dream House, it feels like the fine marketing folks at NBCUniversal were really trying to reach out to those fans, even if it meant stretching the truth a bit.

The problem here is the Dream House may look like a horror film and try to act like a horror film, but that is precisely what it is not.  On paper, director Jim Sheridan’s project has a lot going for it.  Daniel Craig, in my opinion the best James Bond ever, sits in the driver’s seat of this mind-bending (or so it aspires) movie as a husband and father of two, who learns that he and his family are living in a house where three ghastly murders took place.  The plot unfolds as Craig’s Will Atenton peels away the layers to the murders and moves closer to discovering a dark set of truths.  If the movie only aspired to be that (a Whodunnit flick), all would have been better off.  Unfortunately, the movie incorporates a supernatural element to the movie that leaves the plot looking like a thin slice of Swiss cheese.

The cast does very little to redeem themselves or the film in this outing.  Daniel Craig is just adequate in much the same way as he is in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  The issue is that Craig excels in alpha-male roles involving intense physicality as opposed to that of a more passive and slightly inept detective of events.  Rachel Weisz is cast as a key role in this movie (Will Atenton's wife), but struggles to really make a strong emotional impact.  It is in stark contrast to some of her better performances (i.e. About A Boy, Definitely, Maybe).  Perhaps she and Craig fell victim to the cinematic trap that is spouses working together on a film (see also Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut).  As for Naomi Watts, I’ve not seen her in a film that I liked since The Ring.  Or maybe I feel like that is all I have seen her in because she has one stock performance that she constantly delivers.

I hate to say this, because I am one of those people who enjoys a good scare, an intense thriller, or even an occasional gore fest, but I find myself hard-pressed to recommend this movie.  At the very most, it is a bottom of the queue / free cable movie, but in all honesty it is a movie you should take a pass on.  However, Daniel Craig fans fear not.  Skyfall is currently in production and is already receiving great buzz.

Standout Performance:  Marton Csokas has made a decent career out of glaring at the camera and portraying generally mean characters.  This film is one more notch in the belt.


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