Occasionally a film with a troubled production history will have negative effects on the finished product, take Alien 3 for example in which director David Fincher relentlessly battled with producers over the handling of the film (naturally the director’s cut of the film is vastly superior) and even Blade Runner was affected by its troubled production resulting in the film being hit financially. Judging by director producer quarrels it appears that Dream House also fell victim to such production issues.
Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) leaves his well paid job to live in a quiet residential area out of the busy, bustling city of New York in order to spend more time with his children and write a book (though you’ll probably wonder where any income will come from as Libby Atenton doesn’t leave the house). Anywho ignoring that rather large hole the family of four move into this new house only to discover that barely five years ago a brutal triple murder took place, is the house haunted by its dreadful past?
Like I have previously mentioned the film had some quite problematic production issues notably between the director (Jim Sheridan) and producer James G. Robinson who argued constantly on set. Obviously the faults of the film can be blamed on both the producers and those who made the film, but the trailer cut by Morgan Creek Productions, which revealed the central twist of the film, really added to the actors’ and the director’s growing sense of frustration with the producers so much that they refused to do any press releases for the film. Clearly these issues had an effect on the finished product as Dream House is, to be frank, a nightmarishly bad film.
There are many, many issues that are to blame for why the film is as big of a disaster as it actually is; firstly it wastes the potential of a talented A star cast consisting of Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz (Libby Antenton) and Naomi Watts (a neighbour from across the street). All these are talented actors who have been lumbered with a script of such poor quality that even the best of performances would fail to get anything worthwhile out of it. The performances are fine, but the poor quality of the material they were given gave them an impossible task. However not all of the blame must be shouldered by writer David Loucka as the producers dirty hand prints are clearly visible.
That said how much difference could there be between the studio influenced version and the directors version? Clearly the influence of the studio did not stop the film from becoming anything special, but their input is one of the bigger reasons why the film cannot even come close to be passable entertainment. However there are plenty of issues that are major problems in which the producers’ influence is limited, namely the complete lack of tension and also the complete lack of any good scares. What is causing even further issues is the fact the film has no idea what it wants to be, is it a horror movie? A psychological thriller? It fails on both counts as Dream House is about as psychologically disturbing and scary as a sheep in the Welsh countryside.
There are elements of The Shining here (for example central premise has some similarities, and also some of the visuals employed by cinematographer Caleb Deschanel are similar to that of Kubrick's film), but the film does nothing more than taking elements of other horror films and pasting it into their own. The lack of originality or interesting ideas are evident as the film travels though many of the genre’s conventions and clichés, and the central plot twist is vastly similar to that of two very recent films. Add that to the fact that this plot twist was ludicrously revealed in the trailer makes for a very unsurprising change in events. Yet that is not the final twist as proceedings become more convoluted, contrived and implausible as the film drags on, feeling a great deal longer than its 95 minute running time.
The production issues gave the film an impossible task, but the complete lack of scares and tension, and a story that fails to execute any interesting ideas it might have had becomes the film’s biggest downfall. Jim Sheridan is not an awful director, but here he has dropped the ball, mainly because producers chucked him one with sharp spikes on. I may be adding too much emphasis on the producers influence over the making of film, but the fact that Craig, Weisz and Sheridan want nothing to do with this film speaks volumes. It’s a catastrophic mess and possibly a career lowlight for many involved, but at least Craig and Weisz got something out of it - each other.