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Cold Creek Manor   D

Touchstone Pictures

Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Mike Figgis
Writer: Richard Jefferies
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Sharon Stone, Stephen Dorff, Juliette Lewis, Ryan Wilson, Kristen Stewart, Dana Eskelson, Christopher Plummer.

Review by Sean O'Connell

You really can't judge a film by its trailer. Coyly advertised as a haunted house thriller, Cold Creek Manor is in fact a by-the-book stalker picture marred by sloppy plotting. It's only scary if a malicious redneck holding a grudge terrifies you.

After one particularly strenuous day, the city-dwelling Tilson family hastily decides to pack up their belongings and move upstate. Parents Cooper (Dennis Quaid) and Leah (Sharon Stone) have an easy time selling their kids on the move once they find Cold Creek Manor, a gargantuan estate the bank recently repossessed. Sure, the decrepit abode needs thousands of dollars in reconstructive surgery, but it also has a pool. No family can pass up on a pool.

Enamored with its premise, Manor hurriedly blows through the first act. Little mention is made of Leah's job, which she leaves cold, or the children's school, which they stop attending. Director Mike Figgis doesn't care about details. He's too busy looking forward to the second act, which is where we meet Dale Massie (Stephen Dorff). Cold Creek Manor's former owner, Dale lost the title to the house after spending three years in prison, but he's conveniently back and hates having new people in his home.

Typecasting gives the rest of the story away. The one-note Dorff specializes in menacing roles, so it's clear he's the villain from the get-go. His association with the trashy Juliette Lewis only solidifies this position. Quaid, meanwhile, is built to play the rugged family man who lashes out when backed into a corner. This isn't acting. It's stars casually existing in roles they've played for years.

There's potential hidden under the floorboards of this creaky house. Intriguing undercurrents run through Cold Creek Manor, from the urban family fleeing the rat race to the age-old battle between city folk and country folk. But Figgis, who has made impressive films before, doesn't bother to elevate the run-of-the-mill material. He sadly opts for the least interesting plot thread, a Hardy Boys-level mystery involving a long-buried family secret. Once the decision is made, the rest of the film plays out as a conventional psychopathic drama with nary a hint of suspense.

Review published 09.17.2003.

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