Have you ever wondered what happened in your house before you lived there?
"An enormous empty house." Just those few words gets you shivering, doesn't it? Nothing is scarier than a rundown mansion that's been sitting dormant for years, just waiting to scare the bajeezus out of its new owners. What's so chill inducing about an empty house? Well, you just KNOW some bad things went down there—and if you're living inside a Hollywood movie, those "bad things" will eventually come back and bite you on the ass, usually around the last half hour or so and during a nasty rain storm. If this sounds at all interesting to you, you may get a kick out of Buena Vista's sub-par thriller Cold Creek Manor.
Facts of the Case
For Cooper (Dennis Quaid, The Rookie) and Leah Tilson (Sharon Stone, Casino), life in the big bad city has finally gotten the best of them. After one of their children is nearly rundown by an aggressive driver, the two decide to move the family out to the country, to enjoy the simpler pleasures of life. Lucky for them they stumble across a real deal: Cold Creek Manor, a rundown mansion that is the true definition of a "fixer upper." The house includes all the belongings of the pervious owner, such as photos and historical documents that Cooper begins to study because he's a documentary filmmaker, which of course will come in handy down the line when everything goes to hell.
When Dale Massie (Stephen Dorff, Blade), the house's previous owner, shows up to extend what appears to be an olive branch of good will, all things seem right with the world. In fact, the Tilson family even hires Dale to help clean up and rebuild the pool. But Dale seems to be hiding something, a fact that rears its ugly head when disastrous things start happening around the house.
As they dig deeper, the Tilsons discover a secret that could hold the key to Cold Creek Manor's mysterious past.
Maybe it's just me, but did anyone else see the trailer for Cold Creek Manor and think it was some sort of supernatural ghost story? I would've bet my life savings (enough to buy three Baby Ruth candy bars and a tube of toothpaste) that this film was going to be a creepy, haunted house horror flick. Sadly, I couldn't have been more wrong. Cold Creek Manor is a "psychological thriller," which means it has a couple faux scares, a few tense moments, and a lot of letdown throughout its overblown run time. The haunted house genre (or "psychologically haunted house," if you will) has been beaten so far into the ground that it's liable to pop up somewhere in China.
Cold Creek Manor is directed by Mike Figgis, a filmmaker who has made one critically acclaimed movie (the Oscar winning Leaving Las Vegas) and an experimental film (Time Code), neither of which I've seen. In fact, if this is what he's doing these days, I think I'll pass on the next round, thank you very much. Figgis is very good at making floors creak and thunderclap, but when it comes to spine tingling thrills, he comes up short.
The film deals with a family attempting to relocate their life while confronting a local yokel who can't let go of the past. No ghosts, no phantoms, no poltergeists. In other words, this movie is a bait and switch—the trailer looks like a ghost story but instead it's a whacked out stalker tale. For the villain, we get Stephen Dorff, a man who looks as if he enjoys licking the inside of Jack Daniels bottles and smoking enough cigarettes to make even Philip Morris nervous. Dorff is the best thing about Cold Creek Manor, and that's not saying much. Dennis Quaid, an actor I usually enjoy, has all the edge of a dull butter knife—his character is flaccid and uniformly uninspired. Then again, by comparison, Sharon Stone makes Quaid look like as if he's giving an Oscar worthy performance. Stone is able to parlay about three different facial expressions to the camera: worried, upset, and slightly more worried. These performances are complimented by two children (Kristen Stewart and Ryan Wilson) who scream, yelp, and giggle at every possible opportunity, then hustle offscreen whenever the story requires.
Cold Creek Manor often feels like it's been cobbled together from various other haunted house/thrillers of the past. One part Fatal Attraction, another part The Amityville Horror, and a dash of Cape Fear make for a mediocre experience. How many times must we sit through yet another climactic ending where the heroes and villain fight on a rooftop, on a stormy night just so one of them can fall to their death? Cliché after cliché is presented, each one of them more tired than the next. A note to the director: 1991 called and they'd like their PG-13 rated Lifetime movie back.
I'm sure there are a few folks out there who'll enjoy Cold Creek Manor, though I suspect there are even more that'll think it's pretty God awful. There are only so many times I can experience a window opening loudly or hear thunder crash in the distance for scares before my patience runs out—and my patience ran out about a third of the way through this film. Cold Creek Manor is all build up and no pay off.
Cold Creek Manor is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Buena Vista has done an excellent job at making sure this transfer is a solid effort. The colors and black levels are all in great shape without any major imperfections marring the image. In fact, aside from only the slightest amount of edge enhancement, Cold Creek Manor's transfer is in near perfect shape. Fans of the film will most certainly be happy with the way this picture turned out.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. I was pleasantly surprised at how aggressive and rollicking this mix sounds. There are many instances where both front and rear speakers are utilized, most notably during the end sequences (the thunder is so loud it made my dog bark at the speakers). Overall this is a very nice presentation that will work wonderfully on any home theater surround system. All aspects of the mix are free of any hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are French and Spanish subtitles.
Though it may not be worthy of a special edition DVD, Cold Creek Manor still features a few supplements to please fans. The first is a commentary track by director Mike Figgis that is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Deadly serious and very stoic, Figgis gives us lots of production and genre info, with little in the way of fun or enjoyment. This is a commentary track that's definitely for diehard fans only.
Next up are two brief featurettes: "Cooper's Documentary" and "Rules of the Genre." Both of these are your basic promotional fluff—lots of talking heads telling us all about the movie, what kind of flick they were trying to make (an old fashioned scare show, though you wouldn't know it by the end product), etc, etc. There's nothing in either of these featurettes that is worth a second look.
Finally there are eight deleted scenes and an alternate ending (which is too gooey for my tastes) with optional commentary by Figgis, all presented in only so-so 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen, plus a few trailers for other Buena Vista DVDs.
Cold Creek Manor could have been a lot better. Aside from a few well-conceived moments of fright, this mediocre effort is your standard run-of-the-mill revenge flick, set within a giant haunted house that, alas, isn't haunted or even mildly interesting.
Cold Creek Manor is guilty of being a tease without an appropriate or fulfilling climax.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Buena Vista
• Commentary by Director Mike Figgis
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