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Craig's Movie Club
Movie Reviews

Spotlight on: Mike Figgis's Cold Creek Manor

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Cold Creek Manor Mike Figgis's Cold Creek Manor

If you ever had any intention of seeing this movie, it is my hope that I can be the one to assure that you don't. I'll be giving away every secret of the plot in order to seal this act. Of course, the movie itself gives everything away in the first ten minutes simply by existing. Cold Creek Manor insults its audience by thinking that it is ahead of us when it is so cliched that every incident is easily predicted, and often foreshadowed, often up to an hour in advance. When they are presented as surprises, you'll be wondering why, since you knew that (whatever) was going to happen long before.

After an accident that lets them know that New York City is a dangerous place to live (but could have happened anywhere people are impatient with vehicles), Cooper and Leah Tilson (Dennis Quaid, Sharon Stone) buy an old mansion with a past out in the country. The locals sit around the local diner mumbling about the house but, of course, only telling the Tilsons what they need to know in order to advance the plot.

Just as they are settling in, who shows up but the former owner of Cold Creek Manor (he was in prison, missed some payments, and the bank foreclosed, allowing the Tilsons to buy cheap), Dale Massie (Stephen Dorff), whose family had owned the house for generations. Now, the first clue that this guy isn't to be trusted is his family: where are they? If he was in prison, the wife could make payments, right? Oh, but not if ... but, see, you've already figured it out. The Tilsons don't, however, and hire Massie to help restore the old house, while he rummages through his old stuff that was sold with the house, including a display of skull hammers and some nudie pictures of the wife, along with photos of the many generations of Massies that Cooper, a documentarian, is using to make a film about the house.

Still with me? Strange things start to happen, like poisonous snakes appearing in beds and on floors, causing the family to race up to the roof and call Dale to get them out, making him a hero in the eyes of the kids. Luckily, because Dennis Quaid is a pretty smart guy, his character figures out that Dale put the snakes in the house. Unfortunately, due to some poor career choices that have numbed her brain, Sharon Stone's character does not believe him and ends up with Juliette Lewis screaming at her, a fate I would wish on no one.

Some thriller conventions just leap out, like a skylight/stained glass combination that serves no purpose but just screams to be fallen through. And characters that serve mainly to give information so they can be killed. The only bright spot in this is we get to see Christopher Plummer have a lot of fun as Massie Senior, an old, belligerent, senile man in a nursing home who has a thing for chocolate-covered cherries. The kids are all right, too, especially Jesse's (Ryan Wilson) earnest delivery of that laughable poetry. (Kristen Stewart from Panic Room plays the daughter and was nominated for Young Artist Awards for both films.)

I could go on, but I don't really want to spend any more time discussing this insulting piece of cinematic waste. Mike Figgis (who made Leaving Las Vegas, so we know he can make a decent film) should be ashamed of making this film (the extras on the DVD seem to say that he is quite proud of it) and Richard Jeffries should have his computer taken away from him for lack of originality. The most ironic moment comes when, in one of the DVD extras, which covers the "Rules of the Genre," Figgis points out that you must follow the rules while never allowing the audience to be ahead of the characters in the film. Editing was done in post-production to ensure that this would not happen.

The most fun we had watching Cold Creek Manor was high-fiving each other when our cliché predictions came true. Our hands were sore by the end, and so were we, having wasted our time and money on this.

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