Hello to all those faithfully reading and hopefully enjoying this effort to make even the worst horror movie more watcha... aw, screw that - I'm not that good. If a movie makes you cringe because yet another batch of unlikable teens that are pushing 30 are inching toward their deaths, having a party no one does anywhere ever, a paranormal movie is boring you to tears with unending pans of empty rooms, or thanks to CGI technology when people finally bite it, their blood squirts everywhere except on the victim, the ground, the people next to them... you're in good company and this is the right place for you.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Holy Crap! A Movie That Didn't Suck

Dream House (2011)

I was not looking forward to this movie... just how many haunted house movies can you sit through in one week? Month? Year? This was a pleasant surprise - it was nothing what I thought it was going to be and actually (while using the typical supernatural elements) was pretty 
smartly written. I wouldn't call it just a horror movie. It was kind of a psychological/crime/suspense/thriller/horror movie. In fact, critics didn't like it because they said it was 'too obvious to be scary'. Nothing was obvious about this movie. Obvious would have been a family moves into a house and find it's haunted, spooky things happen and they either move or get killed. THAT'S obvious. In this movie a lot of twists happen and obvious is NOT how I would describe it. If you see this movie come up, give it a shot. If you want to read this review, there will be spoilers. I would call this a sleeper movie. Not sleeper in sleeper hit, which is a movie that gains sudden popularity through word of mouth. This was a sleeper like a sleeper-type car - it looks normal from the outside, but packs a hell of a lot of power under the hood.

Will (Daniel Craig) is a successful editor who wants to spend more time with his family. He quits his job and moves his family, wife Libby (Rachel Weisz), and two daughters, Trish and Dee Dee, into a nice house in a quiet neighborhood during winter. At first, the family lives there happily but somebody keeps lurking outside and Will keeps finding tracks in the snow. Strangely, even though the police show up when he calls, they are unconcerned, and just leave without investigating anything. 

Will finds out that a little over five years ago, a woman named Elizabeth and her daughters Beatrice and Katherine were murdered. Her husband, Peter Ward, found in the house with a bullet wound in the head was the prime suspect, but insufficient evidence, plus obvious mental instability made him incompetent to stand trial and he was instead committed to a psychiatric hospital. Will thinks that Peter Ward has returned and is stalking his family, and starts searching for more information about him. He finds that he was released to a halfway house, and breaks into his room. Will finds a picture of his wife and kids on the bureau. The man who lives there, however is not Peter - he had already moved out. Now Will knows Peter has been in his house. So he decides to go to the psych hospital to find out why the hell they let him go.

Here's the first major mind twist of the movie. He keeps insisting on getting information on Ward but no one will tell him anything. Finally, they take him to one of the doctor's offices who shows him a video. In horror, he watches as a man with his face rants and raves that he did not kill his family. Yes, Will IS Peter - his brain unable to even comprehend the possibility that he could kill his family he created another whole new reality. He was an editor over five years ago and did quit. However, he didn't just move in a new house with his family. That happened over five years ago too. He was released from the psych hospital, since it was determined he was not a threat to anyone, then to the halfway house. In his deluded state, he had made the whole scenario real in his head. His new name came from chewing his name off his wrist band ID W1-1L 8-10-10, becoming Will Atenton. Totally messed up he goes home. It is not the warm, comfortable new place with his family waiting for him. It is a decrepit building covered in graffiti, with nothing inside. His separate identity is so strong though that soon it reverts back to the warm comfy home and he talks to his 'family' who tell him he is innocent. But we have no idea. If they are ghosts, wouldn't they be looking for revenge? Or is he really innocent as both he and they believe?

His neighbor across the street, divorced Ann and her daughter Chloe have been treating him awfully nicely (if not carefully) even though they realize he believes he is a different person with a different family. Ann had visited him in the hospital, believing his innocence, having been his wife's best friend. A little backstory on her, she has a real bastard of an ex named Jack who hates her guts for taking his house, money and daughter. This counts later. Anyway, she tries to convince him he needs to start his 'real' life again, but he just can't let go of his family, who are still plenty real to him. Even during one horrible incident when the children become ill and the mother actually sees the bullet wounds in them as they 'die', they soon are back, whole and happy and he wants it to stay that way. Now here was a bit of unreality. His house is condemned and they kick him out - at night. Ummm no, that's not how that works. There has to be notice, a period of time, and nobody is going to kick somebody out at night. That was dumb. It doesn't keep him out long though - despite locals messing him up as the horrid 'child murderer' he still clings to the house and the family that is still very real, although he now calls them by their real names.

And now the truth is revealed. Ann, the woman across the street, has a bastard of an ex, right? Well, he's so pissed she got everything he wanted her dead. Badly. He hired a local thug to do the job but apparently the idiot didn't know his left from his right and got the wrong house. Elizabeth tries to warn her husband (they were on the phone at the time) and he comes rushing in to see an armed man shoot his daughters, then his wife. He wrestles with the guy and Elizabeth, still alive, grabs the gun but accidentally shoots Peter in the head and the thug gets away.

Ann's ex Jack realizes Peter might eventually figure this out, and so with the thug who originally screwed everything up, they attack Peter and Ann. Jack decides to kill Ann and set the house on fire, framing Peter for her murder, and shoots the thug as punishment for his earlier failure. As Jack tries to ignite a fire, Elizabeth manages to make noise by moving objects (leaving the question were they ghosts or not) and as Jack is distracted, Peter escapes, overpowers Jack and saves Ann. The thug, dying, douses Jack in gasoline in revenge for being shot, but Jack shoots him in the head before being consumed by the flames.

While Ann and Chloe re-unite, Peter reenters the burning house and confronts the ghosts of his family. They forgive him and tell him to leave to save himself. Peter barely escapes the fire, having finally discovered the truth about the past and accepted his family's deaths. On his way out, he recovers a scrapbook he remembers he had hidden under a stair.

A year later, Peter is in New York City and has published a book called Dream House about his recent experiences. It was a best selling book and he continued on with his life. So we have a pretty smart movie with some nice twists and no shock ending. Not exactly the happiest of endings, but a satisfying one.