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'Dream House' Blu-ray Review: Craig Survives One of 2011's Sorriest Thrillers

The trailer for 2011’s”Dream House” seemed to give away more than most movie snippets. That could be why “Dream House,” out Jan. 31 on Blu-ray and DVD, ended up making less than half its estimated budget.

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The film doesn’t deserve a rebirth on home video. The story is difficult to swallow, and thrillers need far more shocks than the few doled out here. But star Daniel Craig invests so much in the main character that you’ll keep watching just to see how the tortured story resolves.

Craig plays Will Atenton, a writer who leaves his posh publishing gig to write the next great American novel — or British novel, perhaps, given his plummy accent.

Will retreats to his family’s snow-kissed home and a wife (Rachel Weisz) and two daughters who look like they sneaked out of a ’50s family sitcom.

It’s all too bloody perfect, and soon we’ll see why.

The house Will calls home once belonged to a family murdered by the father. Naturally, the real estate agent neglected to mention this fact to Will, but some curious run-ins with a beautiful neighbor (Naomi Watts in an utterly thankless role) and some goth-lovin’ teens fill in the blanks. What’s worse, the home is frequently stalked by strangers, and when Will summons the police for help, they all but shrug their shoulders.

The trailer’s big reveal isn’t the true story here, but the film doesn’t improve when the narrative switches from psychological horror to straightforward mystery.

It’s all too daffy to gin up our interest, with screenwriter David Loucka (“Borderline”) using Will’s delusional mind to unfairly trick us at every turn. But Craig’s Will is so full of good cheer and so crestfallen when reality sneaks up on his cobalt blue eyes that we keep rooting for a finale superior to the set up.

Nothing doing. Most horror movies wish they had set designs as gorgeous as what’s seen here, but even the lowest of low-budget shockers are more effective at getting under our skin than this “House.”

The Blu-ray extras manage to transcend the flawed feature film. “Burning Down the House” breaks down how a critical sequence late in the film avoided both CGI and singeing the film’s cast. Special effects maestros describe how some propane tanks, a well placed fireball and some flame-proof paint helped create a firefighter’s nightmare.

Director Jim Sheridan clearly has had enough of computer-aided effects, and in “Building the Dream House” he says as much while exploring how the titular “House” became an uncredited character in the film. In fact, hearing how the location scouts found the structure used in the movie as well as how it was recreated on a sound stage for interior shots is a reminder that even inferior movies require a staggering amount of preparation.

Had the “Dream House” screenplay received such tender loving care, it might have fared better with film goers.

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