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Cold Creek Manor (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None listed

MIKE Figgis has been responsible for some of the most striking movies of recent years, ranging from the tense Internal Affairs, through to the Oscar-winning Leaving Las Vegas, and even the innovative Time Code - a point which makes his latest effort all the more disappointing.

Cold Creek Manor, about a family whose dream move from the city to a house in the country turns into a nightmare, is billed as a taught psychological thriller, yet, sadly, ends up as a hopelessly brain-dead comedy of errors.

Sharon Stone and Dennis Quaid star as the mother and father in question (the Tilsons), who resolve to escape the hustle-and-bustle of the big city (in this case, New York), in favour of the relaxing environment of the countryside, where they can concentrate on being a family.

Moving into a recently repossessed mansion in the sticks of New York State, the duo begin to renovate the property, only to find themselves terrorised by its former owner, Stephen Dorff’s psychologically unhinged Dale Massie, who harbours a number of dark secrets from his past.

Cold Creek Manor is one of those movies that takes an intriguing premise and consistently squanders the opportunities offered by it, relying on tired and predictable cliches, rather than anything which might cast a fresh perspective on a well-trodden genre.

The audience consistently remains a couple of steps ahead of the protagonists, while the family in question actually seem to get more stupid, the deeper they find themselves in trouble.

Hence, what could have become an intense battle of wits between Quaid’s family man and Dorff’s abused villain, in the mould of the struggle between Richard Gere and Andy Garcia in Internal Affairs, is reduced to a routine succession of poorly-scripted confrontations, all of which merely serve to countdown to the inevitable showdown.

As for the mystery which surrounds the property, itself, this too becomes lost amid the stupidity on show, particularly as it becomes apparent, early on, what the dark secret is, and especially since Figgis continually drops crass hints, such as the children unearthing a sign, at one stage, which reads ‘Evil’.

Had the film gone for a tongue-in-cheek approach throughout, it may have worked better, yet the level of the performances seem to suggest that this was meant to be taken seriously, as a suspense thriller, which only serves to make its failure more glaring.

Of the performers themselves, Quaid and Stone seem intent on becoming one of the most laughable families-in-peril for a long time, making one bad decision after another, while Dorff is simply terrible as Massie, seemingly content to play it like a brooding Mickey Rourke mixed with Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

Juliette Lewis, as Dorff’s girlfriend, once again proves that she can play white-trash like no one else, while Christopher Plummer hams it up outrageously, as an abusive father.

Figgis does succeed in throwing in the odd moment to alleviate the tedium, such as a comic confrontation with a house full of snakes, but, for the most part, this is a hopelessly mis-judged affair that eventually outstays its welcome.

Sometimes the laughs, albeit inadvertent ones, just aren’t enough…

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