It’s like if Bob Vila made a thriller: “Booga booga booga! Be careful which house you choose to renovate– Ooo, look at that beautiful original 19th-century molding!” Some spoiled rotten yuppies decide they’re fed up with the big city and chuck it all to move to the country, which is never a good idea under the best of circumstances and goes especially horribly wrong here. Which is kinda metaphoric for the movie as a whole, too — movies about arrogant city slickers rubbing the countryfolk the wrong way are rarely a good idea, and here particularly so.
Apparently, Mike Figgis, who produces arty little films, decided to do a big scary Hollywood flick, only he wanted to have it both ways, wanted to make an intriguing and thought-
Dennis Quaid (The Rookie, Far from Heaven), sporting the only-
Well, not quite. Despite what you’ve been led to believe via the trailer and the TV ads for Cold Creek Manor, this is not a nonstop roller coaster ride of thrills and chills and suspense. It’s about an hour and a half of Cooper being, frankly, pretty creepy himself, not in any interesting way but in a way that suggests that no one really gave much thought to how creepy he is, looting the house (which the Tilsons bought with contents intact) for all the family photos he can find — he, a filmmaker, is planning to make a documentary about the former owners, even though clear legal and moral issues abound when you’re talking about people who abandoned the house practically yesterday and who are, in the form of Dale, clearly not happy about the idea, and who can blame him? It’s an hour and a half of renovating the house and cleaning the pool and Kristen getting a pony and Jesse exploring the woods and Cooper and Leah’s marital discord, the extent of which appears to be that she forgets to reset the alarm clock when she gets up before he does in the morning. It drags on and on and on and Dennis Quaid never once takes his shirt off, though Stephen Dorff does, frequently, which Sharon Stone finds charming even though Dale continues to be all sweaty and menacing about his aggressive near nudity, even though her budding teenage daughter is running around in a bikini right under Dale’s beady little eyes.
But none of that is sinister in the way that a suspense movie about a big old house and the former resident who still feels possessive of it should be — it’s about characters being dumb and filmmakers setting up the audience for a finale that’s supposed to be surprising but is entirely inevitable and predictable. What could have been a story about an emotionally haunted house — and the emotionally haunted family that once lived there — instead turns out, after an hour and a half of not much of anything, to culminate in half an hour of doors rattling in the wind and flashes of spooky lightning and slashed tires and cut phone lines and people declaiming through gritted teeth, “This is my house!” and Cooper and Leah acting so stupidly that even though we’re invited to see their pure-