Cold Creek Manor

(2003) * R
118 min. Buena Vista. Director: Mike Figgis. Cast: Dennis Quaid, Sharon Stone, Stephen Dorff, Juliette Lewis, Kristen Stewart.

Like its titular homestead, Cold Creek Manor is a musty, old fixer-upper. Another thriller pitting a compromised, upper-middle-classy family against evil, low-bred trash, this rather obvious button-pusher is itself classless garbage. With precious few of the commanding eccentricities of The Night of the Hunter and a sad inversion of Cape Fear's terrifying tightening of tension, Cold Creek Manor replaces Robert Mitchum with Stephen Dorff. Any questions?

This time, Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone play the yuppies in crisis, Cooper and Leah Tilson. Concerned about the effects of their urban go-go lifestyle (especially on their 2.5 kids), Cooper and Leah tote daughter Kristen and son Jesse out of the city and into countryfied New York. After taking the plunge and buying the creepy Cold Creek Manor--an overgrown property seen primarily in wide-angle Steadicam shots--the Tilsons immediately have buyer's remorse. Seems that the previous owner, Dorff's Dale Massie, lost the home to foreclosure, which is a shame, since he never got the chance to suitably cover up the horrible crime he committed on the property. Screenwriter Richard Jefferies flirts with supernatural horror by "haunting" Jesse with the memory of a previous inhabitant, but the plot thread leads nowhere. Instead, Dale does his best passive-agressive softshoe for the family (over two hours of running time) before finally breaking into out-and-out "Here's Johnny!" heebie-jeebies.

Those still clinging to the notion that Leaving Las Vegas's Mike Figgis is a great director (and not just a one-hit wonder) can cling to the two good scenes in the picture: a snake infestation scene which riotously blindsides the jumpy family, and an extended, tense, neighborhood-bar scene which hints at an atmospheric salvation the rest of the film utterly fails to achieve. Curiosity-seekers might enjoy a ripe cameo by an unrecognizable, slurping Christopher Plummer (as Dorff's bad daddy); connossieurs of bad dialogue can thrill to a sheriff who intones, "We got a storm blowin' in" (no shit, Sherlock?) and a psycho bad guy who puts his killing on hold to yell, "You should have stayed in New York! This isn't the place for you! You know nothing about farming!" Yeah, we should have stayed home, too

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