Cold Creek Manor (2003) / Thriller-Drama

MPAA Rated: R for violence, language, and some sexuality
Running Time: 118 min.

Cast: Dennis Quaid, Sharon Stone, Stephen Dorff, Juliette Lewis, Dana Eskelson, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Wilson, Christopher Plummer
Director:  Mike Figgis
Screenplay: Richard Jefferies

Review published September 20, 2003

Back in 1992, screenwriter Richard Jefferies wrote the screenplay for a little known comedy-horror atrocity called The Vagrant, which was about a man who buys a new house only to be terrorized by a local homeless man, and no matter how much he tries to convince others of his situation, signs point to himself as a paranoid freak or the culprit of the misdeedsBy the time of its release, The Vagrant was already a few years to late to find its audience, as the urban nightmare thrillers were on the way out.  Now it's 11 years later, and here's another thriller by Jefferies, and get's about a man who buys a house in the country only to have himself and his family terrorized by the former tenant of the estate, and no matter how much he tries to convince others of the situation, he is seen as a paranoid freak or the culprit of the misdeeds.

Granted, this is a better film in terms of quality, with a higher budget and more credible actors.  However, what the producers of Cold Creek Manor have failed to realize is that the domestic thriller genre needs a new twist if you're going to make it nowadays.  Today's audience grew up with these films in the late 80s, and are too savvy to deal with the "same old same old" family under siege.

The movie starts off with Quaid (Far from Heaven, The Rookie) and Stone (The Muse, Antz) moving the kids to the country because they are fed up with New York City life.  With banks foreclosing on homes and selling them at cut-rate prices, they land a sure deal with a little out-of-the-way place called Cold Creek Manor.  It's a large estate, but clearly, renovations are in order.  Soon after moving in, they receive an unwelcome visitor in the form of Stephen Dorff (Riders, Entropy), who apparently had been the previous occupant of the family manor, and just recently let go from prison, he makes a deal with Quaid to help fix up the place.  However, the house has a history, and the more Quaid digs into it, the stranger the occurrences that threaten his family, and soon tension between himself and Dorff sends tensions escalating.

Sure, there is a competent cast here, and Figgis (Mr. Jones, Leaving Las Vegas) is a very good director when he wants to be, but the material just isn't worthy of their talents.  Chock full of trite clichés, you can spot the twists and turns occurring long before the characters do, and we can only sit and watch in impatient agony as the predictable events unfold. 

There's not much else to say other than this is a completely derivative film, a mix of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and Kalifornia (which also saw Lewis as a victimized girlfriend of a similar abusive white-trash boyfriend).  Unless you just love seeing families being terrorized, I can't think of any reason why anyone should watch a film so bereft of original ideas.  Now that we've seen him try twice and fail miserably, let's all hope Richard Jefferies doesn't think the third time must be the charm.

Qwipster's rating:

©1999 Vince Leo