U.S. Release Date: September 19, 2003
Distributor: Buena Vista
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Sharon Stone, Stephen Dorff, Juliette Lewis, Kristen Stewart
Running Time: 1 hour and 58 minutes
MPAA Rating: R (violence, language and some sexuality)

Basic Scary Movie
by Scott Holleran

Despite some suspense and her best efforts, Sharon Stone's first major motion picture in four years is lackluster. There's no reason to root for her besieged family in Cold Creek Manor, directed by Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas).

The main problem is Stone's screen husband, documentary filmmaker Cooper Tilson, played by an uninterested Dennis Quaid. Stone plays a businesswoman mom LEah. Rounding out the Tilson family are the requisite petulant teenaged daughter (Kristen Stewart) and a younger son (likable Ryan Wilson), whose reckless mistake causes mom to ditch the job offer of a career while the whole family flees Manhattan faster than a Fox News Alert.

The Tilsons leave their urban home to live in upstate New York, where they buy an old, foreclosed house with a mysterious past. By this point, the Tilsons aren't very appealing. Upon discovering the house, Mom and Dad, whose marriage is tenuous, trespass with willful abandon, rummaging through the personal papers, photographs and personal property of the previous homeowners. Their son begins wearing the foreclosed family's clothes. Their behavior is borderline unethical. That Dad is compelled to videotape people without their permission is especially alarming.

But back to the town in which they now live. There's a mysterious coffee shop waitress (talented Juliette Lewis in another Natural Born Killers-like role), a butch, blonde sheriff (impressive Dana Eskelson) and a bunch of locals who are mostly losers. That a rich, uptown couple would buy in such a downcast location, apparently without a real estate agent, refusing to heed every logical rule for home buying, is beyond plausibility. The manor isn't that mesmerizing.

Before you know it, the town's number one loser (played by Stephen Dorff, resembling Skeet Ulrich), who happens to have been Cold Creek Manor's previous inhabitant, shows up to cause trouble. Again, it's hard to have much sympathy for a family whose response to the derelict's breaking and entering is an invitation to dinner.

Dorff's ex-convict is menacing, but as the Tilsons are subsequently terrorized by snakes and other various threats, a mystery centered upon Dorff's incoherent father (Christopher Plummer, wasted) drowns the tension.

A stylish thriller emerges in the picture's second hour, and director Figgis creates real suspense. Cold Creek Manor is thankfully free of gory scenes and manipulative set-ups, but, just when you start going along with the dysfunctional family's struggle, Creek is overflowing with cliches. The Shining, The Godfather, The Game—they're all represented here. Everything is predictable.

Maybe not everything. As if Figgis, writer Richard Jeffries or Touchstone didn't know quite how to end the suspense, the climax falls flat. Making matters worse, a final graveyard scene ruins the family's climb back to normalcy and whatever credibility Cold Creek Manor has restored with its thrills is gone.

Sharon Stone is decent as the wife and mother, though audiences may not believe that the smart, glamorous sex symbol would mate with a truly deficient husband. Stone deserves a better script than Cold Creek Manor provides.

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