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A dilapidated house, a vulnerable family and a mysterious past would lead one to believe that a decent thriller would be found in Cold Creek Manor. One would be sorely mistaken. The lackluster thriller fails to generate any suspense and the mystery is gone when the audience is able to figure out how the movie will end in the first thirty minutes. Cold Creek Manor comes home in a DVD package slightly better than it really deserves, however.

Cold Creek Manor

Movie
When life in the dangerous city of New York becomes too overwhelming, the Tilson family calls it quits and moves to a luscious estate in the country. Cooper (Dennis Quaid) and Leah (Sharon Stone) along with their two children, Kristen (Kristen Stewart, Panic Room) and Jesse, settle into the behemoth fixer upper known as Cold Creek Manor. Cooper, a documentary filmmaker, begins digging through old photographs and home videos and quickly reveals that not all is what it seems at the house and maybe Cold Creek Manor came at a cheap price for a very good reason.

Enter Dale Massie (Stephen Dorff, Blade), the house’s former tenant.  After breaking into the house and sifting through some of the old photographs, the Tilson’s feed him a warm meal and give him a job despite the fact that he has just admitted to being in prison for three years (on a charge completely unrelated to his apparent affinity for trespassing). Massie however, apparently has a darker side and he frightens the children with mean glances. He and his girlfriend, town floozy Ruby (Juliette Lewis, Cape Fear), pass along subtle hints that the Tilson family is not welcome in Cold Creek Manor. When Cooper begins to suspect something is not quite right with Dale Massie, he confronts him, setting off the ticking time bomb of insanity that has been ever so obvious to the audience from the very second he appeared on screen.

Cold Creek Manor could not have even looked good on paper. At best it is a rehash of elements from every thriller out there, a “Cape Fear for Dummies” if you will. At worst, it’s a slow, dry attempt by director Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) to prove he is capable of something not slow and dry and by the actors to show that they are still alive and desperate to work. Only the actors succeeded.

Figgis’ use of the camera and choice of angles and movement are nice to look at and at some times excellent. However, he fails to inject any real life into the film and forces the cliché ridden film to a snails pace adding easily a half hour of dead time that could have been cut out to tighten the film. While much of the problems lie in the script, Figgis’ choice to put his name on this project will mark him for some time.

Juliette Lewis (looking as if she was dipped in an ugly bath) provides a rather decent performance opposite Stephen Dorff. Together they provide the only hint of talent in the film. Both Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone have been handed character sketches barely equaling one dimension and their performances do nothing to mask that fact. They are boring and carry the weight of the film on their shoulders as if it were a burden.

Cold Creek Manor is, simply, a bad movie. There is nothing new, original or very exciting to be found. Far too many plot holes rear their heads throughout (Isn’t Cooper a documentary filmmaker? That point comes and goes whenever convenient) and there is not a single surprise to be found. The “mystery” of the house is never really a mystery to anyone watching the film and the time in between the only two real clues is an exercise in endurance. All involved in this project should have seen the shipwreck from a mile away. Instead, they ran full speed into a rock and we are left to watch them drown.

Cold Creek Manor

Video
A film as recent as Cold Creek Manor should have nothing less than an excellent transfer. However, the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is rather dull. While colors are vibrant and rich during the sunny outdoor scenes, night scenes are very soft and rather grainy. The print may be to blame for these inconsistencies but the uneven video experience is unpleasant at times. There is no noticeable edge enhancement nor are there any compression artifacts to be found.


Audio
The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track provided on the DVD is quite good. Ambient sounds are used to great effect throughout most of the film providing a rich surround experience at almost all times. One standout surround effect was the slow approach of a thunderstorm during the climactic final stretch. The surround track provided excellent range and depth that increased over time. On the downside, the audio mix frequently highlights the terrible score, complete with awkward piano cues before something exciting is about to happen (and sometimes when it isn’t). While not a pulse pounding action heavy film, Cold Creek Manor has been given a very good treatment in the sound department.

Cold Creek Manor

Extras
An audio commentary with director Mike Figgis is included. He is an admirable speaker and provides in depth commentary about the making of the film. Although interesting for most of the length of the film, like the movie itself, the commentary does begin to drag and there are few surprises in store for the commentary lover.

There is a “bonus” alternate ending that may have actually worked had been attached to the film itself. There are also a handful of deleted scenes complete with optional commentary. The scenes, however, were wisely cut from the already overlong film.

The “Rules of the Genre” featurette includes the writer, director and actors showing that they do, in fact, know what elements must be present to concoct a serviceable thriller. The fact that they chose to ignore these rules and make Cold Creek Manor instead makes this featurette laughable.

“Cooper’s Documentary” goes into the making of the documentary footage highlighted briefly in the film. As most of the documentary angle was cut from the plot, this featurette is somewhat unnecessary and comes off as filler material. Also, much of the information here and in the previous featurette is discussed in Figgis’ commentary.  

Cold Creek Manor

Overall
It is hard to imagine ever finding an individual to whom one would recommend this film. The slow pace, plot holes, one dimensional characters and lack of any real tension keep this movie from ever having any chance to engage its audience. The DVD is decent even if some of the special features feel more like filler rather than supplemental material.


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