Publishing executive Will (Craig) quits his job and the city to write and enjoy his family in the idyllic home he and his artist wife, Libby (Weisz), have bought in a small town. Belatedly they learn the previous occupants were slaughtered - by a man who has recently been released from psychiatric hospital. Uh-oh.
Whenever a film starts with a family relocating to a quaintly dilapidated house in a sleepy neck of the woods, you know there is going to be trouble, whether it’s of the comedic, DIY fiasco variety, the suspicious-acting neighbour scenario or the things that go bump in the night genre. Jim Sheridan’s first crack at such a suspense thriller, written by David Loucka (The Dream Team) and shot by the great Caleb Deschanel, blurs the line between the supernatural and the psychological, with decided touches of horror. “There’s something wrong with this house,” says the serenely beautiful Rachel Weisz’s yummy mummy, Libby. No shit, Sherlock! Most of us have seen enough creepy movies to pack our bags and race to a motel the minute the youngest child discovers a secret room or sees a scary face at the window. But nobody in the movies ever seems to have seen a movie, so they don’t know how to behave.
It seems a killer is stalking the family. Or is the house itself harbouring something horrid? Daniel Craig’s anxious Will is pretty manly for a book editor and aspiring novelist, so he rushes around confrontationally: with a pack of teens having a party in his basement, with local cops who are curiously uninterested in the goings-on at his gaff, and with the nice, nervous neighbour (Naomi Watts, in a role that hints more than develops). The set-up is full of clues. Even the protagonist’s name becomes significant, although that’s a stretch. One of many. So what happened on that dark and dreadful night five years ago is gradually revealed, but the big shock twist is that the big shock twist is delivered surprisingly early, at the film’s half-way point. It’s daring, suddenly casting everything in a new light — way earlier than M. Night Shyamalan would. It isn’t fair to say that it all goes downhill from there, but it certainly gets very puzzling and the pieces don’t all fit together neatly. Production design helpfully switches the house between time periods, but what’s real and what’s imaginary, what’s deliberate and what’s delusional, remains something of a mystery.
Like most of its ilk, this starts off nicely but doesn't hold up to close rational scrutiny. Craig and Weisz are gorgeous together and the mystification is diverting. More entertaining and emotional than it is explicable.