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"Cold Creek Manor" Movie Review
Up a "Creek" Without a Paddle

Sharon Stone and Dennis Quaid in "Cold Creek Manor."
©2003 Touchstone Pictures - All Rights Reserved

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I am not a gullible person but "Cold Creek Manor's" trailer had me completely fooled. I assumed from watching the suspenseful publicity tool that the movie would be intriguing, maybe a little scary, and yes - suspenseful. Boy was I had. Shame on me.

Sharon Stone and Dennis Quaid play parents of two young kids growing up in the big city. When an accident causes them to reassess their lives, they take the seemingly over-reactive step of selling their NY home and moving to the country. They purchase Cold Creek Manor, a huge house filled with the previous owner's furniture, clothing, and most personal and private possessions.

If I were moving my family into a home filled to the brim with someone else's belongings, I'd be overwhelming my real estate agent with questions about the previous owner's whereabouts. That doesn't happen with this family, though the dad does get all excited about digging through the hundreds of letters and photographs left behind. By trade a documentary filmmaker, discovering the secrets of the previous owner's past becomes like an obsession to him - again leaving you wondering why he failed to ask these probing questions in the first place. So they move into this new home, a fixer-upper with 100s of acres and more than enough space to house a small army. Seemingly without much thought, they sell/trash or otherwise get rid of all the other family's belongings. This action does nothing to endear them to the local townsfolk who don't take too kindly to strangers showing up and buying property at outrageously low prices in their sleepy little town in the first place.

Almost immediately after moving in, the previous owner, Dale Massie (Stephen Dorff), shows up. He plops himself down at the family's table, lights up a joint, announces he just got out of prison, was the owner of the house until the bank foreclosed, and now he wants nothing more than the opportunity to help remodel his old homestead. Yeah, right. Come on - the audience knows this isn't going to turn out good, so why don't the adults in this movie? Instead, they invite him to hang out and earn some money working around the house.

Knowing within the first half hour who the bad guy is and what he wants kind of kills any chance at suspense. Not only that, but the parents in this movie are so naive that you almost find yourself rooting for the bad guy, thinking that at least the adults in this family are pretty much getting what they deserve. Any chance at building tension is quickly lost when whatever predicament the family finds itself in is wrapped up in the blink of an eye. Just when you have hope a conflict might actually lead somewhere, the situation is neatly resolved.

The basic problem with "Cold Creek Manor" is that the characters do so many dumb things and get themselves into so many asinine situations, situations that normal everyday average people would never allow themselves to be put in, that the movie plays entirely false. A psycho who used to live in your house waltzes in and you invite him to stick around with your wife and young children? You flee New York because of a very minor incident yet you subject your family to being stalked by a man who just got out of jail, all for a house you just moved into and have no emotional attachment to at all? The story just doesn't add up. There are plot holes you could drive a Mac truck through.

As for the acting, Dennis Quaid makes the best of a bad script, and the two young actors do fine without much help from the material. Sharon Stone neither adds nor detracts from the effort while Stephen Dorff is probably the standout in this movie. His psycho character does provide the only bit of entertainment in the whole mess. Dorff holds up his end throughout the picture, managing to create a little something out of absolutely nothing.

"Cold Creek Manor" never lives up to expectations. By failing to deliver any thrills, "Cold Creek Manor" winds up feeling like a bad made-for-TV movie with the only notable difference being you can't change the channel AND you actually paid to see this one.


"Cold Creek Manor" was directed by Mike Figgis and is rated R for violence, language and some sexuality.

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