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Get out of my house!


Cold Creek Manor
(2003)

Mike Figgis hasn’t had much luck with his film career, and even less with his Hollywood ventures.  So what inspired him to take on this derisibly cliché-strewn and progressively more banal thriller is anyone’s guess. My pick is that he was behind with the mortgage payments.

At least Figgis can blame Richard Jeffries for the clueless script. Dennis Quaid and family escape New York to moral rural climes (where exactly eludes me). No sooner have they moved into a rundown mansion than the ex-owner (Stephen Dorff) shows up. He’s been inside for manslaughter, but offers to help with the renovations in an ever-so-slightly threatening (and extremely coarse) manner. Before you know it, he’s coming on to the wife (Sharon Stone) freaking out the daughter with his touchy-feely-ness (Kristen Stewart) and eliciting undisguised hatred from the son (Ryan Wilson). What dark secrets does the manor hold? Aside from the snakes, that is! These folks sure shouldn’t have left the city!

Dorff’s terribly miscast, about as threatening as balloon animals. But he does manage to belch with reasonable conviction. Quaid continues his competition with Harrison Ford to see who can become the more constipated-looking as he gets older.  Shazza doesn’t have much to do after an early scene where she gets offered a promotion in exchange for prostituting herself. Neither ever had much star power (Sharon’s snatch was a one-time-only attraction) or script selection skills, but this is undiscerning even for them. The lack of enthusiasm shows. Meanwhile little Kristen doesn’t get bitten by a vampire, but she is set upon by deadly snakes.

Yes, the snakes scene. It’s a while since I’ve seen such an unintentionally hilarious sequence. Someone (I won’t say who, in order to preserve what little mystery the film doesn’t have) has infested the manor with snakes. Everywhere the family turns, every door they open or ceiling they glance at, there are deadly reptiles. Doing not very much. So they flee, screaming and shouting, and shouting and screaming. Up to the roof. And still the snakes keep trying to get out after them. Figgis must have undergone a temporary lobotomy to agree to such ham-fisted nonsense, and he doesn’t even begin to make it work. It’s enough to put him in director jail for life.

That’s not the end of the silliness. When Sharon and Dennis go out hunting for evidence of Stephen’s dreadful deeds they do so at night in a rainstorm. Over a deep, dark hole. There's also a sublimely stupid moment where Quaid punches Sharon in the face. To further emphasise how innovative this movie is, Juliette Lewis is cast as a white trash slut. God knows what poor Christopher Plummer is doing here, but as he only had two days work he got off lightly.

It’s possible that someone thought there was potential for this to be a serviceable thriller in a Straw Dogs by way of Cape Fear vein. So why give the film a title that suggests a haunted house movie? There’s a moment early on where I held out hope that one of the family might be possessed. Such a development couldn’t have made what we actually get any worse.

To show that he isn’t completely comatose, Figgis also contributes a score to the film. Which is horrendous. The resultant cacophony has to be heard to be believed. Only worth a look if you’re an aficionado of unintentional comedy.

*1/2

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