If it was just that it was dumb, really, I would not be so annoyed with “Cold Creek Manor.” After all, most “don’t go into the house”-style thrillers have their dumb plot contrivances, like “Anyone who says ‘I’ll be right back’ isn’t coming back.” But the one thing it is fair to expect from a thriller is that it should not be boring, and that’s why this movie is so bad.
Director Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) shows no understanding whatsoever of the power of film to create suspense. He relies almost entirely on the corniest ominous music cues to signal that something bad is about to happen. When the reaction of the characters is so far in excess of the reaction of the audience, the response is not to gasp, but to laugh.
Cold Creek Manor is the beautiful ruin of a country mansion bought by harried New Yorkers in search of simplicity and serenity. Like the house, the family is not as uncomplicated as it appears on the surface with their breakfast-making dad (Dennis Quaid as Cooper Tilson), briefcase-toting mom (Sharon Stone as wife Leah) and magazine model son and daughter. Both the house and the family have disturbing undertones and in thriller morality tale terms that means that suffering lies ahead.
Dale Massey (Stephen Dorff), who grew up in the house and lost it when the bank foreclosed, shows up one day and asks the Tilsons for a job restoring the house. Despite the fact that he shows up in Cooper’s study looking through things without, say, ringing the doorbell, and despite the fact that he tells them he just got out of jail and lights up a joint after dinner, they agree to hire him.
But then (long pause to indicate other-than-suspenseful meandering toward this point) creepy things start happening. Who could possibly be doing this? What are the roles of the town slut (Juliette Lewis) and town sheriff, who happen to be sisters, and of the mean old guy living in the nursing home? The real suspense is whether we will ever get to the end of this movie.
Once we do, we’re even sorrier. Let me just say that when the good guys run into Cold Creek Manor and lock the door, only they are surprised when that does not leave them as protected as they thought.
It’s a shame that Sharon Stone picked this as her comeback vehicle. Both she and Quaid deserve a lot better. So do we.
Parents should know that the movie includes poisonous snakes, instense peril, and some graphic violence and creepy images. A character (apparently with an alcohol problem) drinks and drives. There are sexual references (including adultery) and sexual situations. Characters use very strong language. Characters describe killing animals and there is a reference to killing children.
Families who see this movie should talk about why Leah and Cooper felt differently about Dale at first, and about the impact on Dale of his father’s behavior.
Families who see this movie and are fans of over-the-top thrillers will also enjoy Jessica Lange and Gwenyth Paltrow in Hush and camp classics like Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte.