- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

It’s not hard to see why Sharon Stone clung to the suspect script that became “Cold Creek Manor.” The stunning actress hasn’t had a major role since 1999’s “The Muse,” and, at 45, she may have thought “Manor” might prove better than nothing.

But how do you explain Dennis Quaid’s signing on for this logic-free thriller?

The actor enjoyed a career resurgence with his 2002 film “The Rookie.” His supporting turn in last year’s “Far From Heaven” only added to his momentum.

Both actors exhaust themselves trying to wring something watchable out of this supposed thriller, but the flabby plot’s dearth of surprises, chills or creativity leave each gasping for air.



Cooper and Leah Tilson (Mr. Quaid and Miss Stone) have had it with the Big Apple. The hustle and bustle no longer thrill them, and when their child narrowly avoids becoming a traffic casualty one manic morning, their minds are made up. So they pack up their two generic youngsters and move to upstate New York.

How fortunate for the now-jobless couple that a mansion is available at far below market value.

Their new home may be a steal, but its rooms are stuffed with all the furniture, papers and snapshots from the previous owner.

That’s fine with Cooper, a documentary filmmaker who quickly grows curious about the home’s past.

Said owner Dale (a grizzled Stephen Dorff) shows up one day offering himself as a laborer with an intimate knowledge of the home. Seems Dale just got out of the clink and needs a paying job pretty badly. Mr. Dorff plays Dale as a borderline redneck who can make a city slicker uncomfortable within seconds.

The home’s renovation gets interrupted by a string of bizarre, and fright-free, events that rattle the urban refugees. Now, it’s up to Cooper and Leah to investigate the home’s past and prevent what could be a deadly future.

“Cold Creek Manor” succeeds solely in defying easy description. It boasts a creepy old house perfect for ghouls and goblins, but it isn’t a haunted house affair. The plot hints at a grand mystery, but the denouement couldn’t be less mundane.

And what on earth is director Mike Figgis doing attached to such a flimsy project? The director of “Leaving Las Vegas” (1995) has wallowed in experimentalism of late, with 2000’s “Time Code” the latest example. Here, he brings earnestness to every scene, when the script’s only hope was to be directed with a self-mocking wink. Had a gleeful hack like Rob Cohen (2001’s “The Fast and the Furious”) taken the helm, it might have abandoned all pretense at reality and concentrated on Mr. Dorff’s crazed villain.

Richard Jefferies’ script teems with conventional settings and conflicts manufactured to keep the film lurching forward.

Casting Juliette Lewis as the town tart gives us a potentially interesting secondary character, but her Ruby serves as nothing more than a leggy distraction.

Mr. Quaid, his craggy charisma burning for naught, bugs out his eyes and stumbles through some scenes as if the horror of this project were slowly dawning upon him.

Unintentional laughter and comically goosed music lurk behind the doors of this “Manor,” which should be condemned by moviegoers.

*1/2

WHAT: “Cold Creek Manor”

RATING: R (Coarse language, sexual situations and physical violence)

CREDITS: Directed by Mike Figgis. Screenplay by Richard Jefferies. Produced by Mr. Figgis and Annie Stewart.

RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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