By now you've probably heard. "Don't watch the trailer for 'Dream House' unless you want the story ruined." Bloggers are complaining the trailer is so filled with spoilers that the story is all but given away. Not only that, they're suggesting it's just another 'Unknown', so...why bother.
And, I admit I felt a little like that too after seeing the trailer. I was thinking that, essentially, the character played by Daniel Craig either a) kills his family or survives an attack in which his family is killed, b) goes to a nut house for a five-year stint and, c) gets out, goes back to the house and is haunted by the ghosts of his dead wife and kids then, d) with the help of the character played by Naomi Watts figures out who the real killer was, finds him, and brings him to justice. Not bad, not bad. I could watch that. A popcorn thriller with standard issue twists. I was okay with that.
But, it's not what I was hoping for when I heard Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts, and Rachel Weisz were headlining this movie. I was expecting a major flick that would be talked about for years and, like most of the blogosphere I was disappointed after watching the trailer, figured this was kind of a lightweight summer thrillride and would be a tough sell because of the twists involved, especially considering they were given away already. But, then I got to thinking about it, running it over in my head, watched the trailer a couple more times, and felt like maybe there's more here. It just seemed too easy. The giveaways were too clumsy.
I went through the trailer again and found some pretty interesting tidbits. Now, I'm thinking (read: praying) this flick has an ace or two up its sleeve and maybe Universal has duped us. If what I'm seeing indicates what I think, what bloggers are calling spoilers are actually red herrings. The trailer is totally spiked with misdirection and we've been had.
Let's take a look, shall we.
Over a god's eye shot of a charming cul-de-sac, the narrator, Daniel Craig, says "Once upon a time there were two little girls who lived in a house." At the word 'house' the halting performance of Für Elise stumbles, hits a sour note, and we cut to a man standing in front of a house, at night, in the snow. Nice opening. Reverse angle on our protagonist, a man content with life viewing his home, his eyes filled with pride, and we're off to a good start.
In the next few seconds we're introduced to the wife and kids. There are shots that establish a happy healthy family life, then weird stuff starts happening and the piano tune collapses into a single eerie repeated note.
There are the expected genre visuals: pencil lines on the wall marking kids' growth (former occupants of the house), something hits the window, a figure in the woods, people scream, man goes to basement to investigate something, incomprehensible whispering voices come from nowhere, discovery of someone hiding -- all while the single piano note gets more insistent. Sure. Got it. This is The Shining, Amityville Horror, and The Others territory tried and true. Par for the course.
Now comes the first strange plot element. EXT. NIGHT -- GROUP GATHERED NEXT TO A VAN. A girl says 'You live here and you don't know about the murders?'
Why is that strange? Well, during the first viewing of the trailer, it isn't. Some neighborhood kids got into a friend's van and headed over to the 'murder house' to maybe get high and have some fun. Normal kids stuff. But then, when the girl is face to face with Craig why doesn't she recognize him as being the killer or the father/husband of the family that was killed in the house?
If Craig is a local celebrity because (as is implied later in the trailer) he killed his family, then how could local kids a) not recognize him and b) ask a stupid question like 'You don't know about the murders?' Kinda weird, yes?
Next we learn that the father of the murdered family, one Peter Ward, was a suspect in the killing. This is where we get a clue. A female voice, presumably Craig's wife says, "How could the neighbors not have said anything to us?" Yeah. How? Why didn't they say anything? What does that indicate? "The house has been empty a long time," says neighbor Naomi Watts in way of explanation. Well, sure. No reason to mention all those killings to the new family that just moved in since it happened like what, five years ago. That's a long time, right? Best forget it, not say anything, move on.
Then, major spoiler, Craig goes to the local loony bin to talk to this Peter Ward himself and finds out the guy is...himself. Craig is Peter Ward and was just released from said bin days before. Here's an interesting thing you might not have noticed. When Craig talks to the guy that runs the mental institution he looks like this:
Then he sees his own image as a patient from the video archive:
And, when we cut back to Craig, he looks like this:
His hair is slicked back. The lighting is cooler, contrast harsher. His shirt has become very dirty -- like nasty, been worn and slept in for a week dirty. And, presto chango, he even needs a shave all the sudden. All within a couple seconds.
So, we have an identity switch/twist going on, but it's not run-of-the-mill. I can't remember this type thing, where a guy's appearance changes like that when the reveal happens. It's a cut above and it's one of the reasons I'm hoping this movie will deliver more than the trailer suggests, (and Universal knows that and that's why they're not afraid to give away so many pseudo-spoilers).
Okay. So Craig is, apparently, Peter Ward. This is where things get really interesting. At IMDb they list Craig's character's name as Will Atenton.
No mention of a character named Peter Ward. Why is that? No ideas here, just pointing it out. But, you gotta admit, there's more going on than just another twisty movie with a trailer that gives away too much. This has layers. And, to me, it all seems pretty solid, well thought out.
Next comes the montage where Craig (as Peter Ward, all grungy) tears down the 'No Trespassing' sign and moves into (what you figure is) his old house. Now we know (or are supposed to think) this guy is mentally unstable. We see him in the abandoned house, sitting in the kitchen by candlelight, when he hears, or thinks he hears, a child laugh. Next, his wife jumps out of the shadows, hugs him and, once more, he looks nice again, like before.
Shirt buttoned all the way up (but missing a tie), clean and white, he's clean-shaven, and his hair is all fluffy and nice. His wife is beautiful, kids running around laughing, the house is in order, everything hunky-dory.
Then, there's a very strange bit. Craig (nice and clean) asks Watts, "Did I do it?" She says no and asks, "What do you remember?" Craig replies, "I left my wife and my family at home this morning." This morning? See, we just got used to the idea that it's been years since the murders, now it's 'this' morning. Today. The comment is voiced over a scene where (super clean) Craig gets off what looks like a commuter train very smartly dressed for a day at work.
Is that the same buttoned up white shirt? Of course, the tie is in place as he's going to work and all. And, behind him, stepping off the train, is this guy.
That's Elias Koteas. Good character actor. Usually has smaller roles, but brings a lot to the show. Here, though, he has all the markings of the bad guy -- the way he moves, the way he's following our protagonist. The thing that's strange about Koteas, though, is he's credited at IMDb as playing 'Hooded Man/Boyce'.
I'm sorry, what? He plays two characters or a character that goes by either Hooded Man or Boyce. In the screen capture he isn't wearing a hood so he must be Boyce. However, here there is a hooded figure:
I know that's kind of hard to make out. He's moving from right to left (the direction bad guys move. Good guys usually move left to right). You can see it in the trailer, at 1:57. So, is this Koteas as Hooded Man?
This hooded figure appears immediately before Craig's wife, Libby Atenton played by Rachel Weisz, is shown obviously frightened, holding a butcher knife, ready to defend herself. So -- the hooded man is the killer? Would that make Koteas the killer? Looks sorta kinda like it would. What does that mean plotwise? Craig/Ward was in a prison for the criminally insane after killing his family, as the trailer leads one to believe, or in a mental health facility being treated as a post-trauma emotionally shattered man after the Hooded Man (played by Koteas) killed his family?
So now we have another ambiguity when it comes to identity. First, Craig is listed as portraying Will Atenton not Peter Ward (and IMDb does not list a character with that name) and the trailer suggests he is the killer, then we get this thing with Koteas' character's name(s) and the implication the Hooded Man is the killer along with the possibility Koteas plays another character named Boyce. Again, layers. There are twists within twists, and that could add a lot to the movie. None of which is obvious from a casual viewing of the trailer.
Okay. Here's where I'm going to posit my take on the plot.
STOP READING IF WILD SPECULATION ABOUT THE PLOT OF AN UPCOMING MOVIE BY BLOGGERS BOTHERS YOU. IF WHAT FOLLOWS TURNS OUT TO BE WHAT HAPPENS IN THE MOVIE YOU'RE GOING TO BE REALLY PISSED OFF.
THIS, BASICALLY, WOULD RUIN THE MOVIE FOR YOU
(And, no. I haven't read the script. If this is actually how the story goes, well, it's purely guess work based on what's in the trailer. Again, you might want to stop reading).
Here's what I'm thinking. Craig/Ward is the husband of the family that was murdered. He goes to work one morning. At work, he gets a call. It's the police. He goes home, discovers what happened, and freaks. The police interrogate him for hours and believe he killed his family before he went to work.
He goes nuts and, for his own safety, is taken to a locked-down mental health facility.
In his first night at the facility ("I left my wife and my family at home this morning"), still dressed in the same clothes he had on when he came home and discovered what happened, crushed by his loss, unable to process being considered the prime suspect by the police, looped on sedatives, he removes his tie and hangs himself with it. (The tie is there before the murders, but gone afterward even though the white dress shirt is buttoned all the way up, like when you wear a tie, in every shot). However, the suicide attempt fails and he is left in a coma, or a locked-in state unable to move or comunicate.
The movie plays out in Craig's/Ward's mind while he lays there helpless, his mind working perfectly. The story unfolds as a dream or alternate state of consciousness (hence the title 'Dream House'). A tormented Craig/Ward is projecting himself into the world in order to find out who killed his family and bring him to justice.The Naomi Watts character possibly learns who he is and helps him figure out who the killer is (Watts wouldn't take a minor role -- her character has to do something substantial).
Once the killer (the Hooded Man) is found, Craig/Ward dishes out justice, then dies (back at the institution) having avenged the killing of his family, which makes the guy a hero (a must for an actor of Craig's stature).
END OF WILD SPECULATION
It does fit together. A fair interpretation I think. Would not be too unlike elements of 'The Sixth Sense', yes?
It's a twisty supernatural thriller with what might be a cool hook and a very compelling story. Universal may be playing us for suckers by spoon-feeding a trailer filled with non-spoilers that are designed to make you think the movie is a predictable by-the-numbers thriller when it's much more.
This could be a fairly gripping movie with a nicely cut plot. But, then again, it could be a predictable by-the-numbers thriller. Remains to be seen.