After their son is injured walking on the bustling streets of New York City, Cooper and Leah Tilson (Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone) inexplicably decide to move their family to the "safer" confines of the countryside (because danger certainly doesn't lurk out there). The house they buy is Cold Creek Manor, a massive property that is in complete disrepair and requires more work to fix than humanly possible. It's not exactly clear why they choose this shabby house; the only clue given is that Cooper, a documentary filmmaker, finds the photos and documents left behind as intriguing subject matter for his next low budget project.
Everything appears to be going well - they've made friends with the neighbors, and their daughter has a new pony. Country life is really living up to their naïve expectations until Dale Massie (Stephen Dorff) returns to the familiar confines of the manor, where he once raised his family. Cooper hires the unemployed Massie to help with the manor's repair, despite Massie's announcement that he was just released from prison. Massie clearly has other plans, but tells Cooper that they're going to be good friends. Of course we've heard that overused line enough before to know not to trust the bastard. It doesn't take long before Massie becomes unhappy, and sets off a series of events meant to force the Tilson family out.
Cold Creek Manor suffers from a host of problems that smother any plot or suspense that can develop. For starters, we know who the villain is right from the start. There's no mystery Massie is instigating all of the trouble, and yet it's never explained why he has returned, or why he desperately wants the manor back. I guess he's just plain pissed off that this new family lives there. But, if his motivation is to live there, then why in the predictable, madman-gone-wild conclusion, does he tear apart the manor trying to kill the Tilson family? Where's he going to live when the manor is in shambles?
It doesn't make sense, but nothing in Cold Creek Manor does. Why weren't the Tilson's warned about Massie before they bought the manor? It might have influenced their decision. Cooper claims to be a filmmaker, yet he acts more like Inspector Gadget with the high-tech equipment that he uses to "investigate" Massie's crimes. While Cooper looks for more clues by interviewing Massie's aging father (Christopher Plummer), and his bimbo barmaid girlfriend (Juliette Lewis), Cooper's wife and children remain living on the property in harms way.
Talented and innovative director Mike Figgis helms Cold Creek Manor, but none of the genius he displayed in prior films like Leaving Las Vegas comes across here. In fact, his use of a thumping, low bass piano in the film's most dramatic parts completely distracts, is laughably bad, and serves better as an alarm buzzer to keep us awake through this exhaustive bore. What frustrates me the most is that these experienced actors found these roles, clearly written for others with significantly less talent, interesting enough to take. Don't buy in to this dilapidated property.
Poor Figgis can't absolve himself of this mess in his DVD commentary track, and deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and various other bonus footage doesn't really help much, either.
No. Please. Don't let go.
Run time: 118 mins
In Theaters: Friday 19th September 2003
Box Office USA: $21.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $21.4M
Distributed by: Buena Vista Pictures
Production compaines: Touchstone Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 12%
Fresh: 13 Rotten: 97
IMDB: 4.9 / 10
Director: Mike Figgis
Screenwriter: Richard Jefferies
Starring: Dennis Quaid as Cooper Tilson, Sharon Stone as Leah Tilson, Stephen Dorff as Dale Massie, Juliette Lewis as Ruby, Kristen Stewart as Kristen Tilson, Ryan Wilson as Jesse Tilson, Dana Eskelson as Sheriff Ferguson, Christopher Plummer as Mr. Massie
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