The Movie Date: Dream House

The Movie Date is a weekly feature where we discuss movies that may appeal to the YA audience. Andrew is The Reading Date’s resident movie critic and this week he discusses a spooky movie from 2011 for your Halloween viewing pleasure:  Dream House.

A big-city editor moves to the suburbs with his wife and kids, but is terrified to learn that their home was a murder site years earlier—and fears the killer may return to the house.

This is a quiet and sentimental film that takes a while to get going. With stars of the caliber of Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz and a director like Jim Sheridan, you know that something serious is going down. (Naomi Watts is here too, as a next-door neighbor with dark secrets.) But the first act of the film is deceptively sweet, with the two stars playing an affectionate and playful couple and their charming daughters adding to the warmth.

But one night Will (Craig) hears a sound and goes to investigate; he’s surprised to find not ghosts but a gang of very real goth teenagers partying in his basement! Based on their hints, Will discovers that a man named Peter Ward murdered his wife and two daughters on that very site five years earlier. Even worse, he learns that Ward is soon to be released from a nearby asylum, and he goes to investigate, hoping to meet the man…

From here the film goes into some very unexpected places. Without giving anything away, I’ll say that the story undergoes a twist that would do M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) proud. But at that point the film is less than halfway over; where will they go from here? We’re used to twist endings, but not twist middles. Yet the effect is entirely appropriate here; it informs the rest of the film to tell an unusual, unique, and touching story. With elements of romantic, psychological, supernatural, and crime thrillers, the mood is reminiscent of the 1990 film Ghost (without the comedy, of course).

This is a great film for the Halloween season if you’re not in the mood for monsters or gore; you’ll find a quietly haunting yet satisfying tale with a sweet romance and big family hugs at its heart.

Dream House is 92 minutes long, rated PG-13, and is now available on DVD.

SPOILER ALERT: The trailer below reveals much of the film’s plot—including the twist referenced in the review! If you don’t want to get spoiled, stop watching the trailer at about 1:10. You have been warned!


9 thoughts on “The Movie Date: Dream House

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I remember the trailers for this one and thought it was too creepy for me.

    1. Andrew says:

      The film’s less scary than the trailer makes it out to be; the film’s more eerie and atmospheric and oddly heartwarming. Hope you’ll keep it on your radar, and thanks for the note!

  2. bookgoonie says:

    Thanks for the recommend. It is so hard to find Halloween-ish movies that aren’t over the top.

    1. wordsforthepictures says:

      Agreed! If you like the more restrained variety, you might consider (if you haven’t seen them) the Nicole Kidman pic The Others and the two early 60s classics The Haunting (skip the remake) and The Innocents. (The latter is based on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw; thought I’d throw in a literary reference since this is a book blog, after all!)

  3. You know I hadn’t considered seeing this film but I am thinking I will now..great review!

    1. wordsforthepictures says:

      Given that it’s marketed as a horror/thriller film, I was surprised at how human and compassionate it was, with a satisfying plot arc and no gross-out moments. I hope you like it as much as my daughter and I did!

      1. The lack of gross out moments is a must for me 🙂

  4. fishgirl182 says:

    i wanted to enjoy this more than i did and i totally blame the trailer. it gave everything away so that, by the time i saw the movie, i knew exactly what was going to happen. i wish i could have taken it back and watched it without and prior ideas about it. i think i would have liked it a lot more.

    1. wordsforthepictures says:

      The trailer definitely ruins it; sorry you got spoiled! Still a good picture imho, even knowing what’s going on.

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