At the end of a sunny day last week, I walked a familiar route through Central London, on my way to a very unfamiliar kind of appointment. To celebrate the DVD release of psychological thriller Dream House, starring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts, the film company had embraced its themes of death, fear and the power of imagination, by ‘kindly’ inviting a small group of journalists to have the bejesus scared out of us.
Ten minutes and five torch-lit flights of stairs later, I found myself blinking in the darkened room of a huge flat overlooking Shaftesbury Avenue. Part of an old building that’s being refurbished after standing empty for some time, the electricity cables haven’t been installed yet and the windows had been blacked out. Unbeknownst to me, Shaftesbury Avenue and the surrounding area are a hotspot for paranormal sightings, with cast and production crews of the local theatres reporting many strange happenings over the years.
Alongside the journalists was ‘Power of the Mind’ expert, Jessica Robbins, who explained how susceptible the mind is to suggestion, as well as Hazel Ford and Wayne Spurrier from ghost-hunting company, Haunted Happenings. I hadn’t known what to expect but it quickly became clear that we were there to ‘summon the dead’ and persuade the building’s spirits to make an appearance. From the off, Hazel said she felt a ‘presence’ and kept referring to a tight feeling around her neck. As the spirits were called, my cynicism did kick in but by the end I had to admit that some inexplicable things had happened: from a glass moving unaided around the table and the table moving very noticeably by itself, to surges of electrical currents being detected.
At one point we all saw, and I felt, my arm being moved. Then, another journalist was pushed forward. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but it happened. Was it the spirits, or merely the power of suggestion? Who knows.. An hour in, still talking about the tightening around her throat, Hazel revealed that whilst she purposely hadn’t researched the property in advance, when she’d reached the fourth floor as she walked up the stairs she’d seen a vision of a woman hanging. My instinct was: “Yeh, right”, but there was something believable about Hazel. And when the session was over, Jessica divulged the building’s history to her for the first time: A woman had hung herself in the now blocked-up lift shaft – which used to be by the stairs, on the fourth floor.
So, when I finally staggered out into the bright lights of Shaftesbury Avenue after three hours in that room, I was wondering what had really just happened.
Which, as it turned out, mirrors Dream House. It begins as the story of a man who leaves his city job to spend more time with his family in their new country home. But it soon takes a sinister, bewildering turn. Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz work well as the couple uncovering a dark secret about their house, and Naomi Watts is good as their neighbour.
Darkness is used extensively to build the fear, whilst subtle changes to the set design help create a confused reality. The script isn’t perfect but Dream House is definitely worth watching – if only for the main twist, which I certainly didn’t predict. And check out the insights into the film’s production, provided in the DVD’s bonus features.
Dream House is on Blu-ray™ Triple Play, DVD and Digital Download.