Dream House (film)

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Dream House
Two girls holding hands, their dresses match the wallpaper behind them.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jim Sheridan
Produced by
Written by David Loucka
Music by John Debney
Cinematography Caleb Deschanel
Edited by Barbara Tulliver
Distributed by Universal Pictures (North America)
Warner Bros. Pictures (International)
Release dates
  • September 30, 2011 (2011-09-30)
Running time
92 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $50 million[2]
Box office $38.5 million

Dream House is a 2011 American psychological thriller directed by Jim Sheridan and starring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts and Marton Csokas.[3] It was released on September 30, 2011, in the United States and Canada by Universal Pictures and Morgan Creek Productions to mostly negative reviews and low box office results.


The film begins in Manhattan with Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) leaving his job as a successful editor in the city in order to spend more time in the suburbs with his wife, Libby (Rachel Weisz), and their two daughters and write a book. At first, they appear to be living the American dream in an idyllic small-town home they have just moved into. Early in his time at the house, Will notices tension between his neighbor, Ann Patterson (Naomi Watts), and her ex-husband, Jack, who is picking up their teenage daughter. Despite the seemingly perfect house, it soon becomes apparent to Will that something isn't right.

After asking around, Will learns of terrible murders that occurred there five years earlier–a man, named Peter Ward, the previous owner of the house, shot and killed his wife and two daughters. What's more, Will's young daughters claim to begin seeing a man watching them through the windows at night. Will and his wife begin to uncover more information about the murders, despite the local police refusing to help them. Even his neighbor, Ann, who he has talked to on a few occasions, remains strangely distant and won't tell him anything. However, after uncovering some old things in a hidden attic space, they find out that Peter Ward had already been released from custody (as there was no concrete evidence that he actually killed his family) and is living in a half-way house–to much public controversy.

When Will's wife also sees the strange man that her daughters had already claimed was watching the house (and the police fail to help), Will, believing it to be Peter Ward, sets off to the half-way house to find him and try and settle things. Will goes to the half-way house and sneaks into what he believes is Ward's room (the number of which he found by looking at the mail pigeon hole marked with his name) and there he finds a picture of his wife and daughters. A man comes in and Will threatens him and warns him to stay away from his family. However, the man is not Peter Ward, but in fact a man named Martin Tishencko (Joe Pingue). Confused, Will returns home.

Further research leads Will to the psychiatric hospital where Peter Ward was initially hospitalized. There, Will is told that he is Peter Ward and that "Will Atenton" is a false identity he invented to mask the trauma of losing his wife and daughters. Although he doesn't believe it, the seams begin to show in what he once thought was reality. More and more evidence crops up, showing that the wife and daughters he believed he had are, rather, just projections in his mind of the family that he supposedly murdered.

It is here that Will begins to slip between realities, one being his idyllic, yet completely invented, life with his wife and daughters, and the other, in which his house is in ruins and he is the accused murderer of his family, still living in that same house all alone. He tries to convince to his wife that he is Peter Ward, but she won't believe it, putting it down to a fever and Peter's high temperature. However, when the girls also get this fever and she finds gaping wounds on the girls' backs she realizes he was telling the truth. After his house is deemed by the city as being in an unlivable state, he is evicted - but does not want to leave as whenever he is in this house he returns to his fantasy land with his long dead family. As well as this, he is still unsure which reality is correct.

Ann, Will's neighbor, takes him in, giving him a bath and washing his clothes. She believes his innocence and even her daughter, who had previously had nightmares about the murders, is comfortable with his presence. However, Ann's ex-husband, Jack, somehow hears that Peter is with his ex-wife in her home and comes over to collect his daughter, despite him not yet having custody for a few days. Ann refuses but her daughter obliges in order to avoid any conflict—yet she runs away as soon as she is out the door. Jack goes after her, and Ann, before following, gives Peter the business card of the psychiatric hospital in which he was previously treated, which she found while washing his clothes.

Peter/Will goes to see his psychiatrist who urges him to come back to treatment, but she does not know if she believes his innocence or not and Peter storms back to his boarded up house. There, he is once again immersed in his fantasy land and asks Libby to recall the night of the murders and she tells him everything she can remember - that she heard someone coming up the stairs and the girls, thinking it was their dad, went out to greet him. She also came out, only to find a man with a gun. Peter is jerked from his fantasy by Ann, who is coming to tell him to get out of the house, but before they can leave, Jack and Boyce are there ready to kill Ann and blame the murder on Peter.

As it turns out, the original murders of Peter's family were actually carried out by Boyce. He had been hired to kill Ann by Jack after their divorce but Boyce went to the wrong house and killed the Ward family instead. After being shot, Peter's wife tried to shoot Boyce with a gun he had left on the ground while he was fighting with Peter. Instead, she hits Peter in the head, which explains the absence of any recollection of the events. Both Peter and Ann are knocked unconscious and taken to the basement where Ann is tied up. Jack shoots Boyce for his failure in the previous mission and goes on to light the house on fire with gasoline.

At this point, the truth is revealed about Ward's family. Ward's wife and daughters are visible to him because they are actually ghosts. This is shown when Libby follows Jack down the stairs where he has Ann and Peter. To prevent Jack from killing Ann and Peter, she starts to make things move in the basement to trick Jack. Libby buys Peter enough time to free himself and Ann, and they escape from the house while Boyce and Jack are left inside to die. Peter rushes back into the burning house where he sees his wife and daughters for the last time. During his escape, Libby makes the wind rush through the house and Peter is brought to his senses, finally letting go of his family to escape from the house.

The movie ends showing Peter Ward looking through a bookstore window at the book he has just written about his experience—he was writing a book at the beginning of the film in his fantasy world, but this time the book is under his real name of Peter Ward.



Director Jim Sheridan clashed with Morgan Creek’s James G. Robinson constantly on the set over the shape of the script and production of the film.[4] Sheridan then tried to take his name off the film after being unhappy with the film and his relationship with Morgan Creek Productions.[5]

Reportedly, Sheridan, Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz disliked the final cut of the film so much that they refused to do press promotion or interviews for it.[6] The trailer, cut by Morgan Creek Productions, came under fire for revealing the main plot twist of the film.[6][7]


Dream House: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by John Debney
Released 11 October 2011
Recorded 2011
Genre Soundtrack
Length 56:47
Label Varèse Sarabande
Producer Stephanie Pereida
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars link
Filmtracks 4/5 stars link

The score to Dream House was composed by John Debney and conducted by Robert Ziegler. Christian Clemmensen, reviewer of Filmtracks.com, gave it four out of five stars, declaring it "among the biggest surprises of 2011" and stating, "It's not clear how badly Debney's work for Dream House was butchered by the studio's frantic last minute attempts to make the film presentable, but Debney's contribution does feature a cohesive flow of development that is, at least on album, a worthy souvenir from this otherwise messy situation."[8] The soundtrack was released 11 October 2011 and features fifteen tracks of score at a running time of fifty-six minutes.

No. Title Length
1. "Dream House"   5:36
2. "Little Girls Die"   2:53
3. "Footprints in the Snow"   3:17
4. "Peter Searches"   6:00
5. "Night Fever"   1:33
6. "Intruders"   1:41
7. "Libby Sees Graffiti"   2:33
8. "Peter Ward's Room"   2:10
9. "Ghostly Playthings"   3:17
10. "Peter Ward's Story"   3:13
11. "Ghost House"   2:37
12. "Remember Libby"   4:05
13. "Murder Flashback"   3:59
14. "Peter Saves Ann/Redemption"   7:29
15. "Dream House End Credits"   5:55


The film was not screened in advance for critics, and was critically panned. Review aggregation Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 6% based on reviews from 82 critics, with a rating average of 3.7 out of 10 and an audience rating of 35%. The consensus states: "Dream House is punishingly slow, stuffy and way too obvious to be scary."[9] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 35/100 based on 16 reviews.[10]


  1. ^ "Dream House (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 2011-09-13. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  2. ^ Kaufman, Amy (September 29, 2011). "Movie Projector: Holdovers likely to beat '50/50,' 'Dream House'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 30, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Rachel Weisz, Daniel Craig And Naomi Watts To Star In 'Dream House'". FilmoFilia. Retrieved February 11, 2010.
  4. ^ "Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz "Dream House" May Be a Nightmare". Hollywood News. July 21, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2015. 
  5. ^ "24 Frames". Los Angeles Times. 
  6. ^ a b "Daniel Craig's Dream House Trailer Spoils The Entire Movie". Cinema Blend. July 20, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2015. 
  7. ^ "‘Dream House’ Trailer Gives Away Too Many Secrets". Screenrant. July 20, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2015. 
  8. ^ Clemmensen, Christian (5 October 2011). "Dream House (John Debney)". Filmtracks.com. Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
  9. ^ "Dream House (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved October 20, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Dream House Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 20, 2013. 

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