Combustible Celluloid
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With: Dennis Quaid, Sharon Stone, Stephen Dorff, Juliette Lewis, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Wilson, Dana Eskelson, Christopher Plummer, Simon Reynolds, Kathleen Duborg, Paula Brancati, Aidan Devine, Wayne Robson, Jordan Pettle, Ray Paisley, Shauna Black, Peter Outerbridge
Written by: Richard Jefferies
Directed by: Mike Figgis
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and some sexuality
Running Time: 118
Date: 09/17/2003

Cold Creek Manor (2003)

1 Star (out of 4)

Up a 'Creek'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The trailers and TV ads for Cold Creek Manor would have us think that it's a scary haunted house thriller. It's not. For some unknown reason, director Mike Figgis (One Night Stand) and screenwriter Richard Jefferies (Man of the House) have decided to dig up the old Cape Fear story again, and even though it's 40 or so years old, neither of them feels any need to update it or provide any red herrings or double-crosses. Moreover, the filmmakers blatantly foreshadow every possible thrill or scare in Cold Creek Manor, effectively stripping away any entertainment value. They show the big climactic murder device -- a kind of spiky hammer used for killing sheep -- at least five times, just in case we didn't get it the first four times.

In the film, Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone play Cooper and Leah Tilson, a married couple with two kids who tire of fast-paced city life and buy an old mansion in the boonies. One of the house's former occupants, Dale Massie (Stephen Dorff) suddenly appears -- inside the house, looking through the Tilson's belongings. Astonishingly, the Tilsons give him a job -- even after discovering that he'd been in prison the last three years! Strange things begin to happen. A bunch of snakes appear in the house, a pet pony winds up dead, etc. Cooper knows Dale is behind it all, but can't prove it. All of the characters behave like idiots at every turn, even when the facts are staring them in the face.

With his overrated, clich├ęd 1995 disease-of-the-week film Leaving Las Vegas, Figgis earned himself a reputation as a great filmmaker -- when in reality, he's barely even competent. His obnoxious, pretentious The Loss of Sexual Innocence clocked in as the worst picture of 1999, and his 2001 feature film, Hotel, remains unreleased, mostly due to bad notices. Cold Creek Manor appears as a first-class production, and the actors do their best with the abhorrent dialogue. But, despite the amount of talent involved, they can't help looking foolish.

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