Cold Creek Manor Review
Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone learn the perils of buying property on the cheap in Cold Creek Manor, a suspense thriller that takes too long to get to the thrills and, when it gets there, can only manage second-hand thrills at that. It's a cross between the nasty redneck genre, in which naive city slickers move to the sticks and find out they ain't got no business round these parts, and the "(fill in the blank) from hell" genre exemplified by Fatal Attraction. The blank this time is the property's former owner, Dale Massie (Stephen Dorff), who lost his family's mansion to the bank while he was in prison and is none too happy to find out a family of well-off New Yorkers have bought it for a ridiculously low price at an auction.
The new owners are the Tilsons - Cooper (Dennis Quaid), a documentary film-maker, Leah (Sharon Stone), a successful businesswoman and their two children, Kristen and Jesse. They've moved from Manhattan to the countryside in search of quieter and safer lives, apparently never having heard of the suburbs. Just as they've settled in, they're paid a visit by Dale, who assures them there's no hard feelings and offers his services as a handyman, which they accept, despite the awkward situation and the matter of his prison record. This turns out to be a big mistake (duh!). While Dale is fixing the swimming pool and flirting with Leah, Cooper is investigating the history of the house and uncovering some ugly facts about the Massie family.
Cold Creek Manor seems an unlikely choice for British director Mike Figgis's return to mainstream cinema. Since his acclaimed 1995 hit Leaving Las Vegas, Figgis has mostly made experimental films like Timecode and The Loss Of Sexual Innocence. Now here he is making a Hollywood thriller, a genre he visited before more successfully with Internal Affairs. That was a tense and intelligent film, while sadly Cold Creek Manor is silly, derivative and clumsily scripted, packed with subplots and angles that aren't developed, like the marital tension between Cooper and Leah and Juliette Lewis's irrelevant trailer-trash girlfriend. It also has a lousy villain in Stephen Dorff, who is unconvincing as a mean redneck and has neither the menace nor the physical presence to pose a credible threat to Dennis Quaid. By contrast, Internal Affairs featured a career best performance by Richard Gere as a frighteningly evil cop.
Figgis does pull off a few memorable scenes, including a tense stand-off in a restaurant and a real hands-over-the-eyes sequence that will have anyone with a fear of snakes fleeing the cinema. However, he also takes Richard Jefferies' story far more seriously than it deserves and he spends too much time panning and swooping around the house, vainly trying to work up an ominous atmosphere (Figgis's own score keeps calling to mind Ennio Morricone's music for The Thing). The film's one big asset is Dennis Quaid, who makes Cooper interesting and thoroughly sympathetic. Quaid's recent career revival has been very welcome and hopefully his forthcoming projects, which include The Alamo and The Day After Tomorrow, will be more deserving of his talent.