There are fine moments in DREAM HOUSE, but not enough so that the easily parsed story and oddly soporific direction fail to become insurmountable hurdles. Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts, and Rachel Weisz give performances that are visceral without being obvious, performances that amplify the sense of foreboding and suspense that should be coming from the ci-mentioned sources. The clarity of emotion that they bring is heroic in the service of a hopeless cause.
As for the story, its interesting rather than electrifying, taking a little too long to get to the weirdness that will eventually consume Will (Craig) as he embarks on a brave new life away from his publishing job and into the loving bosom of family life in suburban Connecticut. There, as he and wife Libby (Weisz) renovate their eponymous abode, he will also write the novel hes been hankering to churn out. Alas, as is to often the case in films of this nature, the excellent price on the rambling neo-Colonial is less about it being a fixer-upper than about the evil doings that have left it vacant for five years. Faces appear at windows; voices are heard in the basement; and the neighbor lady (Watts) going through the bitter custody battle with her ex (Martin Csokas) gives him the same strange stares that the local townsfolk do when he starts asking questions about what happened under his roof. In a nice touch, the logical explanations turn out to be far more troubling than supernatural ones would have been. In an even nicer touch, the supernatural cant be entirely dismissed, though madness is also a more than viable option.
Unfortunately the trailer for DREAM HOUSE gives away one of its initial twists, and one cannot help but ponder why the marketing people would want to include such a big spoiler. Its the one mystery not addressed as the film moves along at far too lackadaisical pace that has director Jim Sheridan, who to be fair had the film taken away from him, confusing slow with suspenseful. The accumulating weirdness never becomes all-pervasive eerieness, much less terror, though Craig gives Wills descent into confused madness a raw and potent edge of despair. Its a deft and masterful contrast without a trace of Bond to it save for the requisite display of a manly chest and bracing abs. He plays the character with equal skill as a warm and passionate family man basking in the secure love of his close-knit family. Ably supporting him is Weisz, playing Libby with the perfect dream of domestic romance and puckish humor, and two little girls who are the perfect dream of adorable offspring.
Revelations are duly trotted out, explaining all, but without the proper shock value, and with few surprises at that, thanks to having been telegraphed far in advance. An overreaching theme of the fragility of family life is lost entirely, and the audience is left instead with an irksomely hushed excursion that starts tamely and pretty much stays there for 92 minutes.