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‘Creek Manor’ will leave you cold

Quaid and Stone can’t rescue this lifeless story
/ Source: The Associated Press

The word “cold” couldn’t be more fitting for the movie “Cold Creek Manor” — it’s a horror flick that isn’t scary, a thriller that’s never suspenseful, a whodunit that’s more of a who cares?

If it's trying to be a family drama, it fails there, too, because it’s hard to feel emotionally attached to characters we know virtually nothing about.

Cooper Tilson (Dennis Quaid) and his wife, Leah (Sharon Stone), pack up their kids, Kristen (Kristen Stewart) and Jesse (Ryan Wilson), and leave the chaos of Manhattan after Jesse is hit by a car on the way to school.

Leah had been on the verge of a promotion to vice president of something or other at a company that’s never defined. Cooper makes documentaries — about what, we don’t know — but Leah tells a co-worker it’s low-budget stuff, a “labor of love.”

Somehow, they can afford to live in a townhouse in the city, which they sell when they move upstate to the sprawling, decaying Cold Creek Manor, and can survive on Cooper’s income alone, since Leah has quit her job to devote all her time to renovating the foreclosed estate.

When the family first visits the house, they find signs of lives that have been interrupted: shelves filled with books, documents and photos strewn about in the study, sheets rumpled in a bedroom. Nobody stops to ask what happened to the people who lived there. The Tilsons just sign on the dotted line and move in.

Soon they meet scruffy, slightly menacing Dale Massie (Stephen Dorff), who arrives one day and explains that his family owned the former sheep farm for about a century. Dale just finished a three-year jail term, he says between hits off a joint, needs a job and offers to help them fix up the house.

At the same time, Cooper inexplicably starts piecing together a documentary on the history of Cold Creek Manor, which angers the volatile Dale even further (though you’d think his frequent pot use would mellow him out).

Nor does it sit well with Dale’s senile father (Christopher Plummer), who lies in a nursing home bed, alternately cramming chocolate-covered cherries in his mouth and barking out incoherent orders. (The hills clearly are no longer alive with the sound of music.)

While working on his film, Cooper begins to suspect he’s stumbled upon a murder mystery, though it’s obvious all along who the killer is and who the victims are. I kept waiting for a twist — a set-up, a cover-up, something. I kept thinking, could it really be this simple? Sigh — it is.

Figgis faulters
Director Mike Figgis’ “Time Code,” his largely improvisational, sometimes draggy 2000 film that played out in real time, was more suspenseful than this.

Working from a script by Richard Jefferies, Figgis borrows from a number of superior thrillers, though not very effectively, including “The Shining” and “Pacific Heights.” There are even elements of “Beetlejuice.” Stewart, who plays the Tilsons’ teenage daughter, also hid from bad guys soon after moving into a dream home when she played Jodie Foster’s daughter in “Panic Room.”

Quaid struggles gamely to maintain some dignity, given the material. Stone, in her first major film since 1999, is inert in the role of docile, doting housewife.

Only Juliette Lewis provides a much-needed spark in the beginning as Dale’s trailer-dwelling waitress girlfriend, though her off-kilter performance is one we’ve seen her do in several films over the years, including “Cape Fear” — yet another movie from which “Cold Creek Manor” wantonly, wastefully pilfers.