FILM REVIEW: Dream House (15)

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Irish film director Jim Sheridan’s psychological thriller suffers from a nasty case of trailer-itis.

The two-minute promo, which has been playing in cinemas for months to drum up interest in Dream House, gives away the entire plot of this disappointing yarn.

Every twist is exposed so we know where scriptwriter David Loucka is going far in advance and can spot when he cheats to obscure his not-so-grand design. It’s infuriating.

Even if you head into the cinema blind, Sheridan’s suspense film creaks with familiarity, applying the same plot mechanics as Shutter Island and John Carpenter’s The Ward, with similarly lacklustre results.

The inexpressiveness of leading man Daniel Craig does the film few favours.

His stricken hero is neither endearing nor sympathetic and we couldn’t care a jot if he unravels the mystery of the previous owners of his New England townhouse, who perished in grisly circumstances.

Craig’s real-life spouse Rachel Weisz fits snugly into the role of on-screen wife and they gel nicely in their scenes together.

Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) is a successful publisher in Manhattan, who abandons the city to spend more time with his wife Libby (Rachel Weisz) and daughters Dee Dee (Claire Geare) and Trish (Taylor Geare) in the suburbs.

While reconnecting with his family, Will also intends to churn out the novel he has always promised to write.

“I can see the characters as clearly as I can see you now,” he tells Libby.

An even bigger story unfolds in the Atenton’s home when Will learns that the family nest was a murder scene.

A mother and her brood were slain at the hands of a wrathful husband, shocking the quiet community.

Ann Paterson (Naomi Watts) and her teenage daughter Chloe (Rachel G Fox), who live across the street, clearly know something but are reluctant to speak.

Then a mysterious stranger called Boyce (Elias Koteas) begins to spy on the Atentons and Will is infuriated by the lack of assistance from his neighbours.

So he and Libby piece together the puzzle.

Dream House is, alas, more of a nightmare for everyone involved.

Sheridan won’t be securing his seventh Oscar nomination for this generic hokum and it’s difficult to see why a film-maker of his calibre signed on the dotted line.

Perhaps scriptwriter Loucka’s vision was rich and engaging on the page but on screen there’s no dramatic momentum or sense of urgency.

Weisz and Watts are poorly served, unable to find any emotional depth in their two-dimensional heroines and Koteas’s role in the big picture is laughably obvious.

The histrionics of the fiery finale don’t make a great deal of sense but since Craig is as wooden as the homestead that conceals so many dark secrets, at least there’s the tantalising possibility of his crusading father going up in flames too.

We can but dream.

By Damon Smith

:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5/10

Released: November 25 (UK & Ireland), 91 mins