Cold Creek Manor Review
By Shawn McKenzie 09/19/2003
The trailers looked cool. The director, Mike Figgis, had helmed the cool (though depressing) 1995 movie Leaving Las Vegas. Dennis Quaid had just come off one of his most critically praised years last year with The Rookie and Far from Heaven. All of the signs pointed to Cold Creek Manor being pretty sweet. What went wrong?
Cooper (Quaid) and Leah Tilson (Sharon Stone) live a hectic life. He is a documentary filmmaker and she is a corporate executive. Their two kids, teenage daughter Kristen (Kristen Stewart) and her younger brother Jesse (Ryan Wilson), are not big fans of the city. After Jesse is almost run over by a car on the way to school, they decide to give up the city life of New York for the countryside of Bellingham. They buy a foreclosed rundown house and land known as Cold Creek Manor. The house and its history fascinate Cooper because the foreclosure on it left all of its previous owner’s old stuff. Jesse also thinks the stuff is cool. As they are fixing it up, they meet the former owner, Dale Massie (Stephen Dorff.) He just got out of prison, and since he can’t exactly get the house back, he’d like to work for them fixing the house up. He creeps them out, but they give him a test run by letting him fix up the pool in the backyard. He does a good job on the pool, so they let him continue working for them. Soon weird things happen that kind of freak them out. Dale’s girlfriend, Ruby Ferguson (Juliette Lewis), tells Cooper to watch his back, because she thinks Dale is violent and unpredictable, attributes he displays one night at the local bar. Ruby’s sister, Sheriff Annie Ferguson (Dana Eskelson), doesn’t seem to be too concerned about Dale at first, and she doesn’t try too hard to look into Dale’s background. Cooper does some investigating on his own. He visits Dale’s father (Christopher Plummer), who is in a nursing home, but he doesn’t get much out of him. The old dude does say something about the Devil’s Throat, and Cooper assumes he is giving a description of his own throat. Cooper must figure out why Dale wants his house back so badly before someone in his family is hurt…or killed.
To be honest, this movie started out genuinely creepy. About a third of the way into it, the movie started to get silly. I don’t want to give away any plot twists, but to give you an idea of what I mean, think of the fate of the movie producer’s horse in The Godfather. When you see the horse in this movie, you’ll know what I mean. After the horsie scene, the movie pulls out every horror movie cliché in the book. There are investigations in the dark, people running into houses after seeing a flaming car outside, and so much more. I think I’ve almost lost all the original respect I had for Dorff. This is his third stinker in a row, after Deuces Wild and FearDotCom. Is it too late for him to be involved in the third Blade movie?
I haven’t been a movie critic very long, but I think when I start hearing people laugh during a movie at points not intended for comedy and I hear a collective groan at the end from the crowd, it is not a good sign. That is exactly what happened at the screening for Cold Creek Manor. I actually feel bad for everyone involved in it, because I know they have good work in them. I hope this won’t damage their careers, including that of Figgis. At least Stewart, the boyish-looking girl from Panic Room and The Safety of Objects, actually looked like a girl this time.
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