“Dream House” – 2 STARS

Don’t you hate it when you buy a new house only to find out it was the scene of some grisly murders? Such is the case with Jim Sheridan’s schizophrenic psychological thriller “Dream House” – well, kinda. This is a movie featuring loads of talent and at its core a familiar but fairly interesting story. But it’s also a movie plagued with amateurish writing and an off-the-rails ending that undermines everything the movie tries to do.

The film starts with the standard yet pretty interesting haunted house treatment. Will (Daniel Craig) has quit his job as a successful editor to spend more time with his wife Libby (Rachel Weisz) and his two daughters in their new suburban home. As always things seem lovely at first. But through several discoveries they find out that five years earlier some horrible murders had taking place in their home. Their weird-acting neighbors and the uncooperative Police Department sends Will on an investigation of his own.

It’s here that the movie offers a big twist, and then another twist, and then another twist. Now I’ve always appreciated when a movie tries to shake things up. But here it’s done in a hamfisted and clunky way. The first big reveal does offer promise although it doesn’t necessarily take things in a better direction. From there the story launches into several different directions mimicking everything from “Shutter Island” to “The Shining”. This wouldn’t be a problem except everything feels fractured and manufactured and the constant shifts in tone are jarring. It just keeps throwing things at you right up to its ludicrous and off-the-wall ending. I mean the finale is so poorly conceived, so under developed, and utterly preposterous.

A lot of what does work can be contributed to the committed performances from Craig and Weisz. While the material is all over the place the two do inject some energy and spark into the script and I enjoyed them on screen. On the flip side, the usually good Naomi Watts seems bored playing a neighbor who knows more than she’s letting on. And then you have an equally flat performance from Marton Csokas as her jerk ex-husband. He ends up having a fairly important role in the movie but he’s without a doubt the worst written character in the entire film.

“Dream House” is ambitious and it starts on a pretty good note. But all of its ambition ends up being its undoing. Yet while critics have universally panned it, there are certainly worse thrillers out there. In fact, “Dream House” is a very watchable movie and it’s easy to digest. But it’s also an easy movie to forget and unfortunately it’s plagued with too many faults to forgive. And the biggest bummer is that all of this great talent simply goes to waste.