Cold Creek Manor

Rated: R
Stars: Dennis Quaid, Sharon Stone, Stephen Dorff, Juliette Lewis, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Wilson, Christopher Plummer
Director: Mike Figgis
Screenwriter: Richard Jefferies

It’s a generic “scary” film about an old house with a demented former owner tying to scare the beejesus out of the new residents. But lifting it a notch above generic are the fine character development by the writer and the believable portrayals by Quaid and Stone, as well as special mention for Dorff.

Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone play Cooper and Leah Tilson, Manhattanite professionals grown weary of urban life. They check out a few homes in upper New York State, settling on one ramshackle brick mansion on what used to be a 1200 acre sheep farm. They buy the house and everything that was left in it by the former owners, including furniture, clothing, memorabilia galore. It will need a ton of work, but, hey, they have more than enough time.

Leah is a high-stressed executive escaping both her job and the flirting boss; Cooper is a documentary filmmaker who seeks a safer environment for their children Kristen (Kristen Stewart) and Jesse (Ryan Wilson). It becomes obvious that their marriage has had its ups and downs and this is the time for all to start over. Cooper’s first order of business is to bury himself in the history of the house and he begins compiling a video and photographic record of events and people.

Then along comes Dale Massie (Dorff), a muscled young man who makes himself quite at home, rather instantly and that’s because it used to be his home … before he went to prison for three years on a manslaughter charge and missed who knows how many bank payments. He pressures Cooper into giving him a job helping fix up the place. Cooper gives in and there goes the ball game. Suspicions set in; strange things start happening; Cooper’s investigations eventually lead to the family patriarch (Christopher Plummer), who’s confined to a nursing home. No more need be said.

Lotta says: Director Mike Figgis also composed the music and has provided a very effective score. Quaid and Stone come across as real people, no matter how many mistakes they may make along the way. Lots of dopey doings mostly involving Dale but you can’t blame Dorff — he’s terrific as the testosterone-loaded, danger-man. And it’s pretty predictable, after all. But if you don’t dwell on the failings of this film, you might enjoy the atmosphere. Nice house. Nice storm. Rated R for violence, language and some sexuality. Poor Juliette Lewis plays Ruby, yet another trailer-trash girlfriend, Dale¹s this time, a part with which she¹s by now all too familiar.

Reviewed: September 19, 2003