In COLD CREEK MANOR, Cooper Tilson (Dennis Quaid) and his wife, Leah (Sharon Stone), are determined to get themselves and their children out of New York City after their boy gets hit by a car and every kind of stress begins bearing down on their lives. They pack up their possessions and move into a mansion in foreclosure in the boonies of upper New York State. Once grand and elegant, the Cold Creek Manor is now in shambles, but Cooper and Leah have plenty of ideas and time for renovations.
Things go along fine for awhile until a series of terrifying incidents at the house lead the Tilsons to wonder who used to live in their new home. Cooper begins a detailed, historical analysis of the house’s history – based on maps, photos, and videotapes he finds in the attic, as well as an interview with an old man (played creepily by Christopher Plummer) in a nursing home. Cooper soon realizes that Cold Creek Manor holds many secrets, and some people desperately want them to remain secret.
One day a strange man shows up in the Tilson’s home, imposing himself upon them for dinner, and finally confesses that he is Dale Massie,(played by Stephen Dorff) the former owner. He asks Cooper for a job repairing the pool, and Cooper reluctantly hires him. Meanwhile, the Tilson children have found a strange, iron trap door in the woods, with the word “evil” engraved on it. They also find a child’s diary, with dark poetry about “the devil’s throat.” To make matters worse, the family wakes up one morning to find poisonous snakes in every room of the house!
Not only is Dale mysteriously on the scene right after each scare, painting himself as the big hero, he also hits on Leah whenever Cooper’s absent. Finally, Cooper fires Dale, and things get much scarier, not better. The family’s survival depends on whether they can figure out the mansion’s mysteries and the real story behind the generations of strange and scary Massie members.
COLD CREEK MANOR is reminiscent of an old ’80’s movie, JAGGED EDGE. With a piano score that sounds like a John Grisham movie, the story is largely suspense over substance. The filmmakers were masterful, however, the knuckles do stay white throughout the movie. Dennis Quaid is excellent as Cooper, but Stephen Dorff, as Dale Massie, truly steals the show as a creepy, angry former homeowner. There is a fun minor part played by Christopher Plummer, as well. The action, suspense and violence were such that many adults in the screening audience turned their heads away many times – especially during the scenes with snakes.
As to content, the story is very telling about children who go crazy with anger and emptiness after being fathered by evil fathers. Though Movieguide® has written much about Hollywood’s portrayal of fathers in recent years, the dads in this movie and in THE HULK seem to have reached a new low of terrifying hatred of their children. The father of the villain in COLD CREEK MANOR screams, “You are the corrupt spawn of your whoring mother! You couldn’t even make babies or keep a wife! You’re useless! Not even a man! You couldn’t kill a farm animal, but you killed them, didn’t you?” Not quite words from a guy who’s ever attended Promise Keepers, huh? Not quite the portrayal of God’s promise in Joel to “restore the hearts of the fathers to the children!”
On another front, the family in the movie is desperately trying to stay together. Though the wife has been propositioned about having an affair, she turns it down and confesses her weakness to her husband. Even the rebellious teenage girl relents and learns to pull her weight in unifying the family. For those who enjoy reading deeply into movies, there are some interesting underlying spiritual parallels the movie portrays about the authority of the husband and father to kick the “strong man” out of his home.
Regrettably, though, families and moral audiences will likely avoid this movie because the filmmakers load it with obscenities, sex, nudity, and excessive violence. Certainly the movie is too scary for children and pre-teenagers, and with so many other good choices at the box office, most teenagers and adults will likely choose alternate fare.
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SUMMARY: In COLD CREEK MANOR, a family thinks they’re getting away from New York City and entering a quiet haven in their new mansion in the boonies, but when the creepy former homeowner shows up and strange things start happening, the family must quickly figure out some long-kept secrets. With suspenseful music scoring and terrific acting, COLD CREEK MANOR is marred by excessive language and violence.
(H, B, LLL, VVV, SS, NN, A, D, M) Humanist worldview with protagonists solving stress issues through avoidance and escapism, and some moral elements with family genuinely trying to stay together despite outside assaults; strong language with 18 lighter obscenities, 19 strong obscenities, and 21 profanities; strong violence with allusion to murder, attempted murder, attack of police officer (not shown; only bloody aftermath), fist fights, scary chases with axe-type objects, lots of scary scenes involving snakes; veiled sex shown as silhouette through window blinds; upper female nudity portrayed in photographs; alcohol portrayed in bar several times; smoking portrayed; and, miscellaneous immorality includes disrespectfulness to parents.
GENRE: Suspense Thriller