Listen, I like movies about mild-mannered families being terrorized by inbred hillbillies as much as the next guy. Especially if that guy is a little drunk. But like all guilty pleasures the trick to these kinda movies is to make them deliciously bad. Let me just say up front that Cold Creek Manor is not delicious.
As stupid as a lot of horror movies may seem they have their own perverse logic. They know how to yank your chain and one could argue there's an art to that. Director Mike Figgis, best known for Leaving Las Vegas is a smart man. He's made a lot of smart movies. So I can only guess he looked at Cold Creek Manor and decided he could have some fun with a traditionally low brow genre. He even brought along some fancy award-winning actors, including Dennis Quaid, Sharon Stone and Christopher Plummer, to show us how it's really done.
When we meet the Tilson Family they are harried Manhattanites being tempted by infidelity and nearly run over by SUVs. That's enough to convince them to flee the city for the safety of upstate New York. Shopping for houses one Sunday they are lucky enough to find.....a huge dilapidated estate with some of the previous owner's cryptic possessions still inside. The property could just as easily have a neon light out front flashing "Evil!" in bright red letters. But I'm not sure the plucky Tilsonís would have noticed it anyway. Instead they discover the joys of refurbishing mansions and riding ponies. They make friends with another family of transplanted New Yorkers who run the local bar and restaurant where the locals like to gather and glare menacingly at transplanted New Yorkers. Then one day the previous owner of Cold Creek Manor shows up fresh out of prison and mkes it clear that heís not going to give up his ancestral home without a fight. Or a least extreme discomfort. He's played by Stephen Dorff, an actor with a devilish grin not unlike that of a young Dennis Quaid, who just so happens to be playing the dour-faced dad Dorff is tormenting.
I could argue on behalf of the first two thirds of Cold Creek Manor, in which the dialogue is patently acceptable and the suspense appears to be building. But what happens next is pretty horrifying to watch. The film lurches from one suspense movie cliche to the next, confirming the suspicion that the filmmakers really had no better idea how to pay off this, the hokiest premise on Earth. Earlier hints that there might be occult forces at work in the oh-so-spooky house are completely abandoned, along with the simple logic that people in frightening situations will do predictable things. I really cannot overstate how clumsy and uninspired a climax Cold Creek Manor serves up. If Mike Figgis thought he could waltz into a dimwitted genre, smarten it up and not even get his hair mussed, then he's as sorely mistaken as....well as rich Manhattanites trying to blend in with small town folk.
Like people shout at the screen in really good bad movies....donít go there.
© 2003 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 9/17/03
Cold Creek Manor
US/Canada - 2003