Dream House

Once upon a time, there were two little girls who lived in a house in the middle of a forest. Actually, it's in the middle of a subdivision in the middle of a forest, but sometimes it really does seem like it's terribly isolated and some scary guy is going to get you before you can run across the street to the neighbors' house. The two little girls are Trish and Dee Dee, played by sisters Taylor and Claire Geare, respectively, and here's your MCND trivia fact for the week: Both girls were in Inception, playing Leonardo DiCaprio's daughter at different ages. I thought that was neat.

The movie also has Daniel Craig of Cowboys & Aliens and Rachel Weisz of The Lovely Bones as the parents of said little girls, Will and Libby Atenton, which is also neat. Not the last name, which is a little weird, but the actors, since I like them both. I also have no complaints about Naomi Watts from The International or Elias Koteas of Let Me In -- he's never the star, but he's a good actor and a great supporting character. And yet the movie somehow never quite clicks. I kept sitting there waiting for it to happen, but no go.

Will has just quit his job as an editor at GPH Publishing to spend more time with his family. He's going to write a novel, and strangely everyone thinks that's a good idea. Having also just bought his dream house, he plans to spend some time fixing that up as well. It's all lovely and idyllic, but as Libby says, it can't last.

A mysterious figure is seen lurking around outside the house, scaring the girls. A group of punk rock kids from the eighties sneak into the basement at night to perform pseudo-satanic rituals. And the neighbors glance discreetly at the house and murmur things about 'the tragedy'. It seems that five years ago almost to the day, a family was destroyed there -- the mother and two children were killed outright, while the wounded father, maddened with grief, went to Greenhaven Psychiatric Hospital. He isn't there anymore, however, having been released to a residential halfway house, much to the dismay of the general public. Yes, the previews give away a lot more than that, but I think that was a bad idea. If you haven't seen the previews, you might enjoy this film more if you don't know the rest, so you won't hear it from me.

The general public includes Jack Patterson, played by Marton Csokas from Alice in Wonderland, who used to be married to Naomi Watts' character, Ann, and is now locked in a fierce custody battle with her over their poor daughter, Chloe. Ann, who lives across the street, clearly knows more than she's telling, and frequently walks away without answering any of the questions the befuddled Will asks while he's trying to puzzle out what happened all those years ago. Somewhat more communicative is Jane Alexander, who was in Terminator: Salvation, and here plays someone who might be a coworker of Will's, and might not. She was also in The Ring with Naomi Watts, which is another interesting fact. I sort of half-watched that movie once, when my roommate rented it, but I don't remember either of them because I had my hand in front of my face pretty much the entire time. That helps filter out some of the scary.

So on the plus side, a great cast, and an intriguing idea. On the minus side, the plot is iffy -- one scene was only in there because they didn't quite know where to go next, I think -- and it might as well be a Bond movie, since you can pretty much tell at a glance who the bad guys are. But there are some nice touches here and there, and everyone acts their hearts out with what they've got to work with, so you can't fault them there. It should really be two and three-quarters out of five, but I'll round up to three because Daniel Craig worked so hard and I love Rachel Weisz, who was also doing her utmost. Like the aforementioned Let Me In, it tries to be both horror movie and psychological character study, but never quite makes it as either. If you do go to see it in the theatre, however, may you at least be spared the presence of a slightly deaf older woman who now and then likes to inform all her fellow filmgoers that she doesn't like this movie anymore, because that's what I had to put up with.

Image: 
Daniel Craig explores his dream house's spooky, badly-lit basement.

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