**1/2 (out of 5)
September 30, 2011
Daniel Craig as WILL ATENTON
Naomi Watts as ANN PATTERSON
Rachel Weisz as LIBBY
Elias Koteas as BOYCE
Marton Csokas as JACK PATTERSON
Taylor Geare as TRISH
Claire Geare as DEE DEE
Directed by: Jim Sheridan
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
WARNING: This review contains spoilers, not just for the already-spoiled “Dream House,” but also for the following films: “The Sixth Sense,” “The Boys from Brazil,” “127 Hours,” “The Shining” and the upcoming “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn.”
Not too long ago, some academic published a study in which the conclusion said that people do not, in fact, hate spoilers. Actually, the study went as far to say that people preferred to have stories spoiled for them. Forget the fact that the study was woefully flawed because it focused on classic literature that most people had to read in school (like “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”) rather than a light and fun movie that takes only a couple hours – and at a price of $10 or more – to enjoy.
I call shenanigans on that study because I hate spoilers. And my experience is that most people hate spoilers, too. Just ask anyone who learned the ending to “The Sixth Sense” before they saw it. Or ask my aunt, who was in the middle of reading “The Boys from Brazil” when a friend of hers asked, “Oh, is that the one where they clone Hitler?”
It’s bad enough when a friend of mine spoils a film for me, or some idiot reporter on television. For example, there was a guy I used to be on television with who got really annoyed when I wouldn’t let him tell the viewing audience that Aron Ralston cuts off his arm at the end of “127 Hours.”
But what’s worse is when the studio itself spoils the movie with its trailers and advertising. We all know that some trailers give too much away, and some of them even show the final shot of the film (I’m looking at you, “Quarantine” and “Paranormal Activity”). Sure, there are times when you can get away with it (like the upcoming “The Ides of March,” which does include the last shot of the film, but it’s okay because you don’t know what it is). Other films give away too much of the first act (like “Anger Management”), causing the viewer to be bored while he or she sits through the set-up they already know is coming.
And honestly, we live in an age when spoilery trailers – and movie news itself – isn’t a big deal. Take the upcoming “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn” double bill, which features not just the marriage of Edward and Bella, but their procreation as well. The fans don’t mind this because every single one of them have read the books cover-to-cover and back again already. So that movie will still play well because the fans just want to wet their pants in the theater while their beloved books play themselves out.
But “Dream House” crossed a new line. It literally lays out every plot twist in the first 80 minutes of the movie during the main theatrical trailer. What should be a surprise when you see the film is nothing more than a confirmation that the trailer wasn’t misleading. In fact, the only thing that isn’t given away in the “Dream House” trailer is the lackluster, predictable and ultimately lame ending.
Had I not known the full plot of “Dream House” going into the film, I might have really enjoyed it. After all, the elements are all there. It’s got a pretty solid cast, led by Daniel Craig and supported by Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts. It’s also got some great atmosphere and a creepy feel to it. While it’s not a typical demon house we would see in “The Amityville Horror” or “Psycho,” the setting is just enough off-kilter from normal suburban living that it puts you at unease.
But the problem is that, as we learn from the trailer, Craig’s character is nuts from frame one. And it’s not like Stephen King’s criticism of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” that we know Jack Torrance was nuts from frame one because he’s played by notable crazy actor Jack Nicholson. We know Craig’s character is nuts because the trailer plays it all out for us.
Where this could have been a clever and eerie plot twist, it’s just another step along the path to get to minute 80 where the film offers a modicum of surprise. Remember the aforementioned “The Sixth Sense,” where it was such a surprise to find out Bruce Willis had been dead the whole time? Then when you watch that film a second or third time, you see all the clues that this is the case. But you skip that crucial middle step in “Dream House.” You see all the clues, and they play off as weak and predictable rather than dubious and clever.
It’s not that “Dream House” is a great film without its near-criminal trailer. There are some problems to it, including some shoddy plot moments, silly character interaction, giant logic flaws and one of the most ridiculous denouements I’ve ever seen on film. But had I seen it in a vacuum, I might have like it enough to consider it a recommendable film.
But as it is, you’d be better off watching the trailer and saving yourself 80 minutes and $10.