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The Ending Of Dream House Explained

In the never-ending world of psychological thrillers, 2011's "Dream House" might slip through the proverbial cracks. Ireland-born filmmaker Jim Sheridan found his success with 1989's "My Left Foot" starring Daniel Day-Lewis and 2009's "Brothers" with Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Natalie Portman. While Sheridan's 2011 drama film may not bring anything new to the coveted genre, it does provide some intriguing twists and turns. The film boasts a talented cast –- Daniel Craig as Will Atenton, Rachel Weisz as his wife Libby, and Naomi Watts as Ann Patterson.

"Dream House" follows Will as he quits his metropolitan job at a book publishing company to relocate to the picturesque Connecticut suburbs with his wife and two children in order to concentrate on his writing career. The seemingly idyllic neighborhood home that the family resides in is not what it appears to be, leaving Will to question his sanity and the horrific event that occurred to the family that lived there before them.

Unfortunately, the movie failed critically with an abysmal Rotten Tomatoes critic score of 6%. The most common complaint was that the film's marketing was terribly misguided since it wasn't a horror movie at all, with a script that was supposedly messy and rife with poorly written dialogue. It's a sad state of affairs because the amazing actors and talented director couldn't even save it, but we're here to explain "Dream House" in all of its compelling, yet disastrous glory.

The first twist comes quite early

For a little while, things seem fairly happy for Will and his family, yet this happiness is short-lived. The house starts giving off ominous energy, which proves that something more sinister lives within the walls. As such, Will begins to believe that the house might be haunted. Ann, the neighbor across the street, acts strangely around Will and doesn't give him answers about what happened in the house. Going in and out of hallucinatory spells, Will continually sees a figure lurking outside of the house on different occasions, and it's perceived to be the same shadowy figure that tried to run him over with a car. Will starts to think that Peter Ward, the man who allegedly killed his two daughters and wife five years ago in the same house, is stalking them. It's only a matter of time before the past mixes with the present.

Will continues to uncover the truth about the murderous man who went on a killing rampage. He visits Greenhaven Psychiatric Hospital where Peter is locked up for committing the disturbing crime. During an initial conversation with Dr. Medlin (Brian Murray), Will is shown video footage of Peter going insane inside his cell. Dr. Medlin points out the back of his head where he is stitched up from his wife shooting him in self-defense, and then he turns his face to the security camera, revealing a huge surprise. Much to Will's disbelief and denial, the man is none other than himself — he was the one admitted to Greenhaven five years ago after supposedly killing his family, admitting himself under the name "W1-1L 8-10-10" or Will Atenton.

There's more than one killer

In addition to that first twist, it's also divulged that Will/Peter has been living in the same dream house for the entire movie, talking to his dead daughters and wife as if they are still alive. 

Since the killer isn't actually Peter, a random man named Boyce (Elias Koteas) is shown to be the one who murdered the wrong family, and it all turned out to be a big mistake. Ann's ex-husband, Jack (Marton Csokas), hired Boyce to kill Ann in order to gain sole custody of her daughter, Chloe (Rachel Fox), and get his house back. Instead of going into Ann's house across the street, Boyce goes into Peter's home and shoots his two daughters instead of making a run for it when he realizes he's not in the right house. Peter comes in the front door, wrestles with Boyce, and, during the altercation, Libby finds the gun and tries to aim for Boyce but, instead, the bullet grazes the side of Peter's head. 

During the final scenes of the film, Jack intends to finish what he started. An intense sequence in the dream house occurs between Jack, Boyce, and Peter, with Boyce pouring gasoline on Jack, who had tried to kill him to eliminate him as a witness. Ultimately, Peter's deceased wife Libby — who appears in spirit form — helps Peter overcome his fear of leaving them behind, while also defeating Jack and saving Ann from dying. All along, his family was helping him uncover the truth and they weren't mere hallucinations. 

While the house is on fire, Will runs back into the house to gather his journal. Desperate to hold on to the fading remnants of his family and once-beloved home, Will struggles with leaving them behind as he watches his dream house become incinerated by flames. In the end, Peter and Ann survive while Jack and Boyce are stuck in the house. 

Peter's story becomes a hit novel

Although it wasn't in the film, it can be gathered that Peter was proven innocent for the crime that he did not commit, and Ann presumably would have testified that Jack attempted to murder them. Toward the very last scene in the film, the camera tracks Peter walking in the city while it's snowing as he passes by a stack of books featured in a bookstore window: his own No. 1 bestselling novel that's appropriately called "Dream House." 

Writing the book served as a personal catharsis that allowed Peter to make peace with the tragic loss of his family. Turning his traumatic life story into a creative endeavor served as a healing outlet for battling his inner demons and gaining the courage to move on with his life. Even though Libby, his daughters, and the dream house are not physically in the world anymore, they live on in the pages that Peter created with his heart and soul.