review for Dream House on AllMovie

Dream House (2011)
by Cammila Collar review

It's hard to review a thriller with a twist ending, since presumably you don't want to give away the twist. But it might be harder to review a movie like Dream House, where there are multiple twists that arrive long before the climactic finale is in view -- and while there are still plenty of mysteries left to solve. Dream House turns the tables on you a few times, too late in the game to be part of the premise, but too early to be part of the ending. While those twists and turns are not altogether unpredictable, their placement within the film is definitely refreshing, especially compared to cookie-cutter fare, where the big, artsy surprise happens when there are ten minutes left in the film and you've probably been waiting for it for a half hour. It's also a nice change of pace to see a thriller based around compelling characters, who give us an emotional stake in their struggles.

The premise of the story is that high-powered New York book editor Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) has finally decided to quit his big-city job and move to a rural, small-town house with his wife Libby (Rachel Weisz) and their two little girls, to spend time writing his novel and bonding with his family. But, of course, Will's picturesque life turns dark at the edges when creepy stories begin to emerge about the gruesome things that happened at the house before they moved in. It's impossible to discuss the movie further without potential spoilers, but I'll put it to you this way: If you think you've got a hunch what the halfway-point twist might be, your gut is probably right. Which is to say, this isn't a thriller for viewers who live for shocking surprises, it's for viewers who like to watch things play out. If your modus operandi is to never, ever see what's coming, this is not the film for you.

But if you like the idea of good performers acting out a narrative that's one part suspense, one part drama, then you won't be disappointed. Bolstering the film's overall effect is the fact that it's got real heart. You never doubt the depth of the connection between Craig and Weisz, or even the honesty of supporting actors like Naomi Watts. And while we can only speculate about why the spark between them feels so vivid, you can't really discount the knowledge that Weisz and Craig apparently fell in love while making this movie, since they got married shortly after filming. This may be an unusual element to factor in when it comes to a film's quality, but I'll take it. Their connection onscreen makes their story feel important, so that whether or not we know what's in store for the characters after the next twist, we care about seeing them through it.