Friday, 6 January 2012

Review : Dream House (2011)


Jim Sheridan


David Loucka (screenplay)
Soon after moving into their seemingly idyllic new home, a family learns of a brutal crime committed against former residents of the dwelling.

Any regular visitors to The Horror Hotel will know that I take a pretty hard-line stand against trailers within the Horror genre. I never use them in my articles, and I'm as adamant about advising people to avoid them as I am about avoiding them myself. In some genres its not such a huge deal, but for me, a teaser should be just that, a teaser.

When it comes to our favourite genre, though, the studios seem to deem us all 'Attention Deficit Disorder' suffering fuck-wits, who have zero imagination, and must be spoon-fed our Horror as they see fit. Be it through misleading advertising being used to promote a film as one thing when its entirely another, (DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, anyone?), giving away each and every scene featuring the villain, (A NIGHTMARE ON SHIT STREET), or, in the case of the DREAM HOUSE trailer, giving practically the entire game away before we even see the fucking thing.

Now, me being me, I didn't see the trailer, so I had no idea what was to be expected. Hell, I hadn't even read the synopsis. All I knew was the James Bond was in it, and so were two very capable, very attractive actress' by the names of Rachel Weisz and Mrs Kong. This information, and the fact that it sounded like a haunted house movie of some kind or another, was enough to get my motor running. Thank God I didn't watch the trailer.

Let me say right off the bat, that DREAM HOUSE is a very flawed movie. Its messy, sloppily edited in many places, and lacks direction; but its certainly not half as bad as its reputation would have you believe. I cant help wonder how many critics who viewed this film had seen the trailer beforehand, and already knew 75% of the plot, before their asses warmed the cinema seats.

I'm sure they would still have gave it a hard time, (as will I, in a few moments), but I have a feeling the reactions may not have been quite as negative, had the films central mystery been kept secret. We'll never know for sure, thanks to the gormless wonder-fucks who handled the advertising. Good work, guys; your mothers will be proud.

Onto the film...

Besides the trailer, (which I have now viewed, as one would a car-crash), the film really does have a few serious issues. Yet its a watchable film, and somewhat engaging, if your expectations aren't set too high.  Not an easy feat, when it stars James Bond...but I digress.

The main problem the film has, is that it doesn't seem to be sure what genre it fits into. Whereas the mixing of genres can often lead to great, great things, (see THE INNKEEPERS review here for a look at why), it can be a death knell when handled with less than careful hands. DREAM HOUSE flirts with the 'haunted house' movie, holds hands with the 'home invasion' movie, french kisses the 'family drama' movie, and eventually gets drunk and gives a hand-job to the 'psycholigical thriller' movie. Had it settled on one, or maybe even two, of these formats, it would have been a far more effective film, because when looked at separately, all the elements are handled well. Its when they meet, mix and mingle that the films strengths are lost.

Acting wise, its all good. James Bond is his usual brilliant self; turning in a believable portrait of a man struggling with some pretty formidable demons. Rachel Weisz is solid, and easy to care for, as his loving, loyal wife, and Mrs Kong is okay too, despite having a very small role in the grand scheme of things, (she's a neighbour from across the street, and that's all I'm saying). Its a good cast, easy on the eyes for both sexes, and more than worthy in the acting stakes. Oh, and James Bonds kids are really cute too.

The plot, (the real one), is actually really strong too. The twist that the trailer so brutally reveals, actually comes halfway through the movie. This, believe me, is a good thing, because we've all seen this particular twist being done to death over the last decade. By placing it in the centre of the movie, we're left with a pretty intriguing premise. Where does the character go next? I actually found the second half of the film to be pretty engrossing, at least until the finale, which comes out of left-field far too quickly, and is wrapped up with very little suspense or vitality.

It feels like a film that has too many hands sculpting it. The scenes of family drama are solid, the scenes of Horror, (however few and however light), are pulled off okay, and the story is sound, but the whole thing feels like some George Lucas-type producer dropped by and forced some completely ridiculous changes.

The soundtrack is a good example of this. The music is completely innapproriate and often dilutes the onscreen dynamics.  Theres one scene that is properly tragic, yet has a John Williams-esque E.T vibe playing over the top of it. Its fucking nuts.

What you get with DREAM HOUSE is the structure of a pretty solid movie, having its overall power diminished by a foundation that seems to lack confidence, direction and purpose. With a little more care in the editing suite, and with some creative changes, (not least that music!), this could have been a winner. As it stands, I didn't hate the film. I enjoyed it for what it was, and my attention was held to the final moments by the strong cast. Sadly, what could have been a great film is merely a watchable one.

The good news is that, trailer aside, its nowhere near the car-crash that many critics would have you believe. I have a feeling that certain sections of the female audience will find a little more to appreciate than the males, (as its a pretty romantic story, when all is said and done), but all in all, its a mildly diverting ninety minutes, and is probably worth watching for James Bond, alone. This DREAM HOUSE isn't shattered completely, but the cracks are hard to cover. Enter with care.

Oh, and don't watch Horror trailers....they're shit.

5.5 Spy Kids out of 10


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