A picture-perfect family, with Daniel Craig playing the patriarch, moves into a new home. The youngest daughter starts seeing things. Someone is stalking the house. A bunch of local teens are caught hanging out in the cellar, thinking the house was still abandoned, and they reveal that the previous residents were brutally murdered. Graffiti on the cellar walls, written backwards and seen in a mirror's reflection, says "Peter Ward - Slaughter," and we're told that Peter Ward was the dad accused of killing his family. A pretty blonde neighbor watches, concerned, and it seems that she has something to hide. Daniel Craig goes to a halfway house to find Peter Ward and then to a psychiatric ward, only to discover -- dum-dum-DUM -- that HE is Peter Ward! He goes back to his house, now abandoned and in disrepair. His wife and two kids are obviously ghosts or figments of his troubled imagination. The pace quickens -- did he really kill his family? If not Peter Ward, than who? Oh, and the house burns down in the end.
That's the general gist of the movie. I was stunned that the trailer let such a big twist out of the bag. The film's conclusion is anticlimactic after that. The answers to the questions that the early part of the movie asks are predictable. A character was introduced in such a stereotypically villainous way that I thought, "Surely, this must be a red herring. Surely, he couldn't be the story's main bad guy. Surely, he couldn't be the one responsible for whatever horror took place in that house." Oh, wait, I promised not to mention anything that wasn't in the trailer. Okay, I'll skip that. Not much to spoil there anyway, it is so blatantly (and frustratingly)obvious.
Daniel Craig does a great job with the material he's given. He is a likable, sympathetic hero. We know, just as the doctors and cops do, that he wasn't responsible for the murders. (He's still so emotionally and mentally unstable that it seemed unrealistic that they would have let him walk free instead of being institutionalized even if there was no evidence that he was responsible for the crime.) His physical transformation once he is told that he in fact is Peter Ward is pretty amazing. (That's in the trailer too, so no spoiler there.)
Rachel Weisz does a fine job as Peter's wife, and the children are pretty good too. (The movie's poster makes it seem as if the kids will be the primary focus of the story with a lot of supernatural elements taking place, and while they are indeed an integral part with some spooky moments, I still found it to be a bit misleading.) Naomi Watts, as usual, is wonderful to watch.
I feel a bit cheated. Knowing that big plot point about who Peter Ward really is took away a lot of suspense and a lot of satisfaction as I watched the film. Dream House is the type of movie that would work best if viewed without any foreknowledge whatsoever about what will happen next. Unfortunately, the trailer unveiled the best part of the story.