Cold Creek Manor

Woefully predictable imperiled-yuppie-family-under-siege suspenser. Helmer Mike Figgis displays at best a half-hearted interest in delivering the commercial genre goods, while Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone fish in vain to find any angles to play in their dimension-free characters. Word of mouth will trigger a quick B.O. collapse.

“Cold Creek Manor” is a woefully predictable imperiled-yuppie-family-under-siege suspenser that hardly seems worth the attention of its relatively high-profile participants. Taking a break from his multiple-perspective digicam experiments, helmer Mike Figgis displays at best a half-hearted interest in delivering the commercial genre goods, while Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone fish in vain to find any angles to play in their dimension-free characters. Disney will have to hope the campaign’s haunted-house hook will lure fright-chasing auds on opening weekend, because word of mouth will trigger a quick B.O. collapse in subsequent stanzas.

When the young son of high-powered Manhattan business exec Leah Tilson (Stone) and indie documaker husband Cooper (Quaid) is almost run over by a Lincoln Navigator, they abruptly decide it’s time to get out of the city and buy a dilapidated country manse at a fire-sale price.

But the Tilsons make the mistake of not inquiring who lived there previously and why they had to leave. They soon find out, when shifty redneck Dale Massie (Stephen Dorff) turns up straight from three years in the pen and asks if they wouldn’t like him to help fix up the house he used to live in.

So as Dale repairs the swimming pool and generally lurks about, ogling the Tilsons’ teenage daughter Kristen (Kristen Stewart), arousing the suspicions of son Jesse (Ryan Wilson), brandishing his sweaty six-pack abs for Leah’s delectation and developing a simmering antagonism with Cooper, you know it’s only a manner of time before the milquetoasty hubby is forced to summon his inner warrior and do battle with the ill-intentioned interloper. It’s only surprising that he doesn’t sit down to watch “Straw Dogs” or “Cape Fear” to get with the program sooner.

Routine material urgently needed some offbeat character contouring to make it vaguely interesting, but screenwriter Richard Jefferies doesn’t make the Tilsons anything more than generic upscale urbanites being given a hard time by some uncouth rural ne’er-do-wells. Leah, as written, is far too naive and unguarded where Dale is concerned, given the more proper skepticism of the rest of her family. Cooper could at least have been handed some stature via intellectual or creative abilities; as it is, making the man a filmmaker seems mostly like an excuse for Figgis to fool around with video imagery in story context.

Dorff makes for an easy-to-hate, resentment-fueled baddie who’s given an endless leash by slutty g.f. Ruby (Juliette Lewis). Dana Eskelson brings some appealing shadings to her role as the local sheriff, who happens to be Ruby’s sister, although disappointingly little is done with this plot detail. A gray-bearded Christopher Plummer has a couple of juicy scenes as Dale’s aged, variably out-of-it father.

Heavy use of wide-angle lenses reminds of too many cheap horror films and isn’t very flattering of the thesps. Figgis’ score hits the menacing notes right on the head, to no avail in the thrill department.

Cold Creek Manor

  • Production: A Buena Vista release of a Touchstone Pictures presentation of a Red Mullet production. Produced by Annie Stewart, Mike Figgis. Executive producers, Lata Ryan, Richard Jefferies. Directed by Mike Figgis. Screenplay, Richard Jefferies.
  • Crew: Camera (Technicolor), Declan Quinn; editor, Dylan Tichenor; music, Figgis; production designer, Leslie Dilley; supervising art director, Peter Grundy; art director, Nancey Pankiw; set decorators, Michael Seirton, Patricia Cuccia; costume designer, Marie-Sylvie Deveau; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Pawel Wdowczak; supervising sound editor, Scott Hecker; supervising sound mixers, Scott A. Millan, Bob Beemer; assistant director, David Webb; second unit director, Dilley; second unit camera, Harry Lake; casting, Amanda Mackey Johnson, Cathy Sandrich Gelfond (U.S.), Robin D. Cook (Canada). Reviewed at the Crest Theater, L.A., Sept. 17, 2003. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 119 MIN.
  • With: Cooper Tilson - Dennis Quaid Leah Tilson - Sharon Stone Dale Massie - Stephen Dorff Ruby - Juliette Lewis Kristen Tilson - Kristen Stewart Jesse Tilson - Ryan Wilson Sheriff Ferguson - Dana Eskelson Mr. Massie - Christopher Plummer