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Cold Creek Manor (A Movie Review)

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

Cold Creek Manor


Starring Dennis Quaid, Sharon Stone, Stephen Dorff, Juliette Lewis, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Wilson, Dana Eskelson, Christopher Plummer, Simon Reynolds, Kathleen Duborg, Paula Brancati, Aidan Devine, Wayne Robson, Jordan Pettle and Ray Paisley.

Screenplay by Richard Jefferies.

Directed by Mike Figgis.

Distributed by Touchstone Pictures.  118  minutes.  Rated R.

This doesn’t happen too often, but I got totally snookered by the coming attractions trailer for this film.  It looked like a genuinely scary film, with hints of a haunted house, an unsolved murder, action, scares…  I was really looking forward to seeing Cold Creek Manor.

Sadly, this film is the biggest waste of a terrific trailer since Warren Beatty’s Bulworth. This movie doesn’t deliver on any of the promises that its advertisement made. Instead of a complex ghost story thriller, we are subjected to an old, clichéd thriller about a redneck (are there rednecks in Connecticut?) terrorizing a yuppie family that befriends him.

Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone play Cooper and Leah Tilson, a picture-perfect New York couple.  He’s a respected documentary filmmaker, and she brings in the bacon as a highly paid executive.  But one day, the family is touched by the violence of the city, and Quaid decides he wants to buy a big old house in Connecticut.

This is just the first of the decisions that don’t make sense for the couple.  Sure, lots of successful couples move out of Manhattan to more impressive spreads up north, but this home is so far away that Stone has to give up her job.  Considering what kind of money documentarians tend to make, this seems a little foolish.

After they have been there for a short time, the house is broken into by a leering ex-con (Stephen Dorff) who grew up in the house and soon is rolling up a joint in front of a family he just met.  Being nice, with-it liberals, the Tilsons decide not to judge him and offer him a job as handyman.  This seems really foolish…

Soon after, the con starts flirting with her under-aged teenaged daughter.  Stone replies by flirting with him, too.  This seems ridiculous.

Of course it’s only a matter of time before Quaid and Dorff are in the midst of a battle royale over the house and the women.  Because Quaid is sensitive and loving, he is not willing to fight dirty.  Dorff has no such problem.  This leads to a predictable series of horror film situations, followed by an ending that I will admit is truly surprising.  Considering the story, though, this climax is probably inevitable, and I doubt it will be satisfying to most viewers.

The acting slightly rises over the level of the material.  Quaid is his normal stolid presence in this film.  If you occasionally want to shake him and tell him to wake up to what’s happening to his family, that’s more an indictment on the script than Quaid’s performance.  Stone also has her trademark ice queen charm in her role, she is rather likable despite the dumb things her character does.  Dorff is a sneering cliché as he continues his professional arc of only appearing in truly repugnant films since his breakthrough in the charming Backbeat almost a decade ago.

Cold Creek Manor also continues the weird career trajectory of talented director Mike Figgis, who continues to confound his fans with each project he has taken since his wonderful Oscar-winning Leaving Las Vegas.  Eight years later, you have to wonder if that film was the fluke, not the ones he has done since.  (9/03)

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2003 All rights reserved. Posted: September 28, 2003.

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