Cold Creek Manor released in 2003. I was in the 9th standard at that time and I often visited a video store where the DVD of the film was put up. I wanted to buy the glistening copy but never had enough money to buy it. A few days back I visited the same video store in my town and found a copy of the 13-year-old DVD still hidden among some other stuff in the store. The DVD appealed to me just as much as it did when I didn’t have the money to buy it. But this time around, I had enough to buy it. I brought the film home and popped it on to my home theater for a Saturday Night viewing.
The film tells the story of the Cooper and Leah Tilson, a family living in New York, who realize that they need to move to the country to be able to raise their children better. Leah is a hotshot executive while Cooper is an independent documentary filmmaker. Their son Jesse lands up in an almost fatal accident in New York traffic which catalyzes the parent’s decision to move to the country. They start hunting for a house and finally zero in on a dilapidating manor known as the Cold Creek Manor.
Once they shift to the manor, strange incidents start happening which makes Cooper question the past of the manor and dig deeper to unravel the truth behind its previous occupants. One of the previous occupants, Dale, returns from his prison term and starts making contact with the Tilsons. They welcome him at first, but his questionable actions here and there, his past as a convict and Cooper’s own suspicions about the man makes him question the fact whether Dale is actually who he shows himself to be. Soon things get out of hand and the Tilsons have to literally fight for their existence and to hold on to their manor.
I will start with the positives. Cold Creek Manor is well acted. Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone have a great chemistry. Dennis Quaid plays a man who is not exactly strong or for that matter attractive. He also gets easily jealous when he sees his wife giving attention to other men. He is not exactly successful but is passionate about his work. When things start getting bad, he crumbles which lets the viewers identify with him. This really works well to transpose the thrill and drama of the film to the audiences. Leah’s character is a typical career-istic type. She does well for herself and in continuing in the spree is almost about to stoop down to a level from which she might never rise. It is at this juncture that she decides to abandon all and try to be the perfect wife and mother. But still, throughout the narratives, you are bound to see flashes of her desire to break free into a questionable relationship, especially with Dale. Thus the organic frictions caused by these two characters add a sense of thrill to the narrative.
The film also tries to lure you into a misdirection by making you think this film to be a horror film. There are certain aspects of it which make you think that a supernatural entity may be involved in whatever was happening to the Tilsons. This misdirection works well initially but once the cards are revealed it makes the viewer feel cheated which is not a good thing for the film. The two kids one of whom is played by Kristen Stewart are also a tad bit too cool in the face of odds for the liking. They just don’t convey the same horror and fear that would have made the drama that much more fearsome.
Stephen Dorff plays Dale. He is the mysterious character that you just can’t find out whose side he is on. His essay is likable. He works especially well in the scenes where he has a one to one with the Dennis Quaid’s character. The two really cook up an absorbing drama in which you feel that either one of the two will at any point of time snap and pummel the other. The film has at least two chilling sequences that will remain with me for a long time. One involving a plethora of snakes that torment each and every Tilson separately at the same time. The other is the gritty climax that really worked well for me. I could practically feel each and every blow and the physicality of it.
Coming to the cons, the film has a lot of it. The pace is slow. Even though it uses the pace to establish a connection between the characters and the audience, the slow proceedings seriously make you disinterested at many junctures. There are sequences devoted to issues that are never brought up again. The believability factor also takes a toll on the narrative. The reasons for which the family shifts is really weak. Who leaves a house in New York for a pesky little accident that didn’t even happen? How can the country be a better place to raise children than New York? Also, what is the source of the great wealth of the Tilsons that makes a failed filmmaker and a wife who is miraculously on a year-long leave afford such lavish lifestyle? The final revelation is so ordinary that it is hardly rewarding enough for you to have sat through a two-hour long film hoping for it to surprise you in the end. The film finds out one of the basic and easiest resolutions to the whole issue. The unraveling of the mystery part is also done in a hurry. Dale’s character gets cheesy really soon and the things he does quickly start feeling impossible. That also hurts the film towards the end.
Final thoughts! Cold creek Manor has a lot of nostalgia associated for me and that’s one of the reasons why I like it more than many others. I also felt that Quaid, Stone and Dorff did well with their characters and their drama holds on to your attention. The film has at least two decent edge-of-the-seat sequences and they merit a view at least. What it needed was more thrills, better writing and more innovating resolution to an interesting plot that was building up. It could also do with a cut short runtime.
Rating: 2.5/5 (2.5 out of 5 Stars)