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Cold Creek Manor
While Cold Creek Manor has suspenseful moments, it is far from the scare-fest the ads and trailers suggest. For the most part, this film is a drama and tends more toward the tame end of the suspense/thriller spectrum (think Devil's Advocate or The Recruit). Compared to sincere suspense/ horror films like Sixth Sense or The Ring, Cold Creek Manor is a bedtime story. My guess is that the filmmakers, especially director Mike Figgis, had no real vision for the film other than the image of a paycheck going into a bank account.
The Tilsons are a very blasé New York City family. Mom is an executive of some kind, Dad is a documentary filmmaker, and the two kids are fussy and generic. After an event-filled day where the son is nearly killed and the mom is propositioned by her boss, the family decides to move away from the city and into the countryside.
The house the Tilsons purchase is picturesque and ridiculously cheap because it was repossessed from its previous owner who could not complete the payments. The local townsfolk are predictably unwelcoming but the family eventually makes friends and adjusts to life in the country. The son gets a BB gun, the daughter chucks her cell phone for a horse, and documentary dad finds a great collection of old photos and paperwork which suggest the house has an unusual history.
Before long, the family meets the previous owner: Dale Massie. Dale has recently been released from prison but is surprisingly untroubled that his family home has been sold to city folk. Dale offers to help the family fix up the house and slowly gains their trust. Not long after, strange things begin to happen at Cold Creek Manor.
Cold Creek Manor is both predictable and confounding. The only surprising turns in the story occur when the filmmakers don't pursue tried-and-true avenues for great scares. The number of moments which start out suspenseful but end up as no-big-deal far outnumber the scenes which actually deliver on thrills. There is one possible exception: there is a sequence that will scare the bejeesus out of people who hate snakes. Otherwise, the scene is almost comical. Sharon Stone and Dennis Quaid scream and run around the house, outwardly frightened but you can tell they are mentally somewhere else spending their paychecks.
Let's face it. All the major players in Cold Creek Manor had to be doing this film for the money. There is little cinematic creativity, and the acting is passable at best. Dennis Quaid is well-cast as a father type, and it's nice to see Sharon Stone getting non-animated work, but their performances are nothing more than functional. As for the supporting cast: Juliette Lewis plays the same crazy trailer trash she always does, and Stephen Dorff plays the same crazy / angry guy he always does. As for director Mike Figgis, well, he probably has an idea for Timecode 2 that is burning a hole in his pocket and he needed to do a mainstream film to bankroll the thing.
If the filmmakers were smart, they would have steered Cold Creek Manor into so-bad-it's-funny territory. Alas, it's just a very weak suspense film that paid some bills for some otherwise talented folks.
-Megan A. Denny