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Section Header
Dream House
Composed by:
John Debney

Conducted by:
Robert Ziegler

Orchestrated by:
Kevin Kaska
Mike Watts

Produced by:
Stephanie Pereida

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
October 11th, 2011

Also See:
Hide and Seek

Audio Clips:
1. Dream House (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

13. Murder Flashback (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

14. Peter Saves Ann/Redemption (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

15. Dream House End Credits (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release.


Dream House

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Buy it... if you have always appreciated John Debney's balance of ghostly ambience and beautiful melody in Dragonfly, for Dream House contains twenty minutes of five-star material along similar lines.

Avoid it... if no quantity of lovely thematic passages in your thriller scores can compensate for an overall work still dominated by otherwise mundane suspense techniques.

Dream House: (John Debney) The nightmare began early for nearly everyone involved with the disastrous production of the 2011 thriller Dream House. Despite the respectable history of director and producer Jim Sheridan, the film was deemed in advance to be so awful that the studio, Morgan Creek, decided to take over the final editing of the project. The story tells of a publisher (Daniel Craig) and his family who move into a Connecticut dream house only to discover that the previous occupants had been murdered there. As the publisher digs into the history of the home, he makes a not-so-unexpected discovery about himself and, with the help of a sympathetic neighbor, tries to unravel the remaining mystery before they are both targeted in another round of attacks. The plot came under scrutiny early and often, its revelation of the major twist in the middle rather than the end failing reflect the better of M. Night Shyamalan's tendencies. Matters were made worse when the initial trailers for the film exposed the twist and basically ruined the entire picture for prospective audiences. The director, Craig, and actress Rachel Weisz were so disheartened with the final cut of the film that they refused to participate in press promotion of Dream House. After declining the show the movie to critics, Morgan Creek was eventually blasted by those who did witness its horrors, the critical and popular responses so overwhelmingly negative that there was little hope that the production would recoup its $50 million budget theatrically. Standing above this unfortunate fray is composer John Debney, who at least did his best to take the assignment seriously enough to provide an impressive orchestral score. Debney has proven to be a reliable source of music for these kinds of ghostly thrillers, his score for Dragonfly elevating that film immensely. 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. His score is dominated by the organic tones of an orchestra, failing to succumb to electronic temptations in a genre otherwise defined by flat and mundane synthetic music. With a vibrant London recording, memorable primary theme, and a few truly outstanding cues of dramatically melodic magnificence, his achievement for Dream House is among the biggest surprises of 2011.

In many ways, Debney emulates the format that horror master Christopher Young utilizes to such great success in the genre, introducing emotionally involving melodic ideas and expressing them with alluring beauty before allowing them to dissolve as necessary for the scary sequences in the film. This technique is also employed by John Ottman, and Hide and Seek could be considered something of a lesser sister score to Dream House. Debney explores the score's primary and secondary thematic ideas extensively in the first ten and final ten minutes of the work, conveying all of these melodies with an outstanding balance of wholesome beauty and unsettling intrigue. The main theme is a series of rising pairs of notes, usually in three phrases and heard immediately at the outset of the opening cue, "Dream House." Debney uses a solemn female solo voice to express this theme at the very beginning and end of the score (as well as a short passage at the conclusion of "Peter Searches"), a nice bookending touch. Other solo expressions of the idea include a xylophone and piano courting each other later in "Dream House," a cello of extremely effective lament early and late in "Little Girls Die," a slightly obscured oboe at the end of "Night Fever," and mid-range brass early in "Peter Saved Ann." The cello and oboe performances return fatefully in "Redemption." Performances of this idea by the full ensemble include a remarkable, timpani-pounding sequence at 1:40 into "Little Girls Die" but then disappear before beginning to develop at the start of "Peter Ward's Story" and eventually boiling to immense proportions by the end of the score. Despite the memorable character of the main melody's descending pairs (which Debney can and does reference frequently because of their simple structure), the main theme's highlighting portion may be its interlude, a more lyrical passage repeated twice at times (and first at 0:37 into "Dream House") during the longer performances of the identity. Several secondary themes of tender intent follow in "Dream House," establishing the safe and friendly suburban atmosphere that is understandably removed from the score (at least in full performances) until the final pair of cues at the resolution. Some listeners may find similarities in progression between this material and Howard Shore's conclusion to Silence of the Lambs, though the character here is more outwardly melodramatic. The descending pairs do steal the show in the end, however, Debney often using them in stuttering statements, as at the start of "Footprints in the Snow," to build suspense.

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Outside of the melodic material in Dream House, Debney stays rather conservative, avoiding obvious electronic slashing techniques but using common symphonic methods of creating dissonant atmospheres. The high strings in particular play the role of spoiler in this score, their tense and uneasy quivering in atonal formations a frequent method of suspense. The dissonant passages in the score are represented by "Footprints in the Snow," "Intruders," "Peter Ward's Room," "Peter Ward's Story," and parts of "Murder Flashback" and "Peter Saves Ann." Otherwise, Debney is content to stew in the environment of slightly troubled ambient groaning, the ensemble sometimes tonally pleasing in these otherwise non-descript conversational sequences. Relatively few jarring stingers are to be encountered in Dream House, and there is likewise an absence of much full-blooded action material. The latter ruckus is largely confined to a grand, forty second outburst early in "Murder Flashback" and the majority of "Peter Saves Ann," the former cue's short eruption matching some of the best material Young and Ottman have ever provided the genre (the incessant violin notes on key over rhythmic trombone blasts are extremely entertaining). The best variations on nearly every idea Debney conjures for Dream House come in the six-minute "Dream House End Credits," a rousingly powerful collection of melodramatic tonality that provides all of the score's themes in their most evocative form. In true Young fashion, Debney adds another phrase to the primary theme's three pairs, a descending trio of notes that is matched by menacingly ascending bass elements. The deep brass, bass string, and chime-banging magnificence of these performances bracket extended, whimsical performances of the interlude (first by violins together, then cello alone, and finally by a rolling grand piano in extremely elegant tones). Flute performances of the family's secondary themes in that summary suite are equally alluring, and with the solo female voice closing it out, "Dream House End Credits" is among the top single achievements by a composer in 2011. Overall, the score contains twenty minutes of five-star melodic tragedy on either end of adequate but rather tepid three-star ambience and fragmented motific references. The choral element is tastefully withheld for only the most poignant moments, and the score is never in your face. The melodramatic, nearly religious shift to the major key for the final notes of "Redemption" is the kind of touch that gives this score a lasting attractiveness. Ultimately, those who fondly recall Debney's Dragonfly will find much to like in Dream House, and if only the suspense material on the interior of the 2011 score had been more unique, it would be an unlikely five-star triumph. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Debney reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.23 (in 49 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 2.97 (in 43,794 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.22 Stars
Smart Average: 3.17 Stars*
***** 41 
**** 53 
*** 47 
** 36 
* 27 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Re: A great score for a crappy movie
  Gashoe13 -- 10/7/11 (3:36 a.m.)
   A great score for a crappy movie
  Chris R. -- 10/6/11 (6:51 p.m.)
   Did Debney phone it in?
  Mike -- 10/6/11 (8:39 a.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings: Total Time: 56:47

• 1. Dream House (5:36)
• 2. Little Girls Die (2:53)
• 3. Footprints tn 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)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Dream House are Copyright © 2011, Varèse Sarabande. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 10/5/11 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2011-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.