Cold Creek Manor review by Mike Long

Poor Dennis Quaid. With The Rookie and the upcoming The Alamo, Quaid was well on his way through a decent comeback. Then, he had to go and make a movie with Sharon Stone. What the hell was he thinking? I suppose that the lure to work with Oscar-nominated director Mike Figgis was strong, but he should have run screaming from the Stone. Actually, Sharon Stone is far from the worst aspect of Cold Creek Manor.

Quaid and Stone star in Cold Creek Manor as Cooper and Leah Tilson, a successful couple who live in New York City. Due to pressure from her job and the perceived dangers of the city, the Tilsons decide to move to the country and purchase a house in upstate New York which is called "Cold Creek Manor" and move there with their two children, Kristen (Kristen Stewart) and Jesse (Ryan Wilson). The belongings of the house's previous tenants and still in the dwelling, and Cooper, who is a documentary filmmaker, begins to go through the photos and records, setting his sights on making a movie about the house. Kristen and Jesse settle in and begin to make new friends.

A stranger arrives at the house one day, and introduces himself as Dale Massie (Stephen Dorff), the previous owner of Cold Creek Manor. Dale has just been released from prison and is looking for work, so he offers his services to assist with renovating the house. Cooper and Leah are weary at first, but decide to give Dale a chance. But soon, odd occurrences begin to happen around the house, and as Cooper digs deeper into the history of the Massie family, he starts to suspect that Dale may be a dangerous man.

Looking at Mike Figgis' resume, the bulk of his films has been dramatic character studies, so one would wonder why he would suddenly shift gears and opt to make a suspense thriller. Having sat through Cold Creek Manor, I can't help but wonder if Figgis wasn't actually making a parody of thrillers, as the film contains every cliche of the genre and plays them to a ridiculous hilt. The movie is an odd combination of the familiar and the disappointing. Anyone who's familiar with this genre will quickly recognize where Cold Creek Manor is picking up its ideas from such past efforts as Pacific Heights, Cape Fear, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Shining (the novel and 1997 mini-series, not the Kubrick film). To this end, the story offers few surprises, and it's easy for the audience to stay ahead of the movie. And for many viewers, they may get too far ahead. Cold Creek Manor offers several threads of storylines which never emerge, the two most obvious being the potential for Cooper and Jesse to become obsessed with the Massie's and begin exhibiting odd behavior. This would have been cliched, but it would have been much more interesting than the movie as it stands. Also, Figgis does create a dour mood at times, and had the movie chosen to dabble in the supernatural, it may have met with more success. However, Figgis shoots himself in the foot, as he is responsible for the overblown and heavy-handed score, which begins the ominous music the scene BEFORE something shocking happens.

As implied above, the problem with Cold Creek Manor is that it's simply far too standard and brings nothing new to the genre. The biggest flaw is Stephen Dorff's character. Dorff is a competent actor and does fine in his role, but when a greasy low-life suddenly shows up in the house and announces that he's just gotten out of prison, subtlety goes right out the door. Dale Massie enters the film as a maniac, thus destroying any potential for a slow build-up. Despite my earlier comments, Quaid and Stone are good in their roles, with Quaid bringing a necessary innocence to Cooper, although, Stone does vamp it up a bit too much. And fans of twist endings will need to look elsewhere, for after 2 hours, Cold Creek Manor has a fairly standard ending. Cold Creek Manor has all of the right ingredients, but the movie needed to bake a lot longer.

Cold Creek Manor lumbers onto DVD courtesy of Touchstone Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a hint of grain at times. The picture is relatively free of ringing artifacts or ghosting, although there is some trouble with horizontal lines in a few shots. Figgis has given the film a slightly washed-out look, so the flashes of color look quite good. The DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track also performs well, although the dynamic range could have used some further tweaking. The dialogue is clear and audible, and Figgis' awful music comes through loud and clear. The stereo and surround effects are quite good, especially during the finale, when they are joined by an impressive array of subwoofer jolts.

The DVD contains a smattering of extras. We start with a very dry audio commentary from director Mike Figgis, who speaks at length about locations and some incidents which lead up to the making of the film, but doesn't talk enough about the story...which isn't surprising. "Cooper's Documentary" (7 minutes) examines the home-movies and photos which Cooper finds in the Massie house. Figgis explains that he was responsible for creating most of these and talks about these materials as if they play a larger role in the film. In "Rules of the Genre" (8 minutes), Figgis discusses explains how Cold Creek Manor follows such rules as "(The) Audience Cannot Be Ahead" and "Cut to the Chase". Allright, fellas, good job on those... Finally, we have 7 deleted scenes, and an alternate ending, which is actually an interesting addendum to the film. These scenes can be viewed with or without commentary from Figgis.

3 out of 10 Jackasses

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