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Cold Creek Manor is a 2003 American/Canadian psychological thriller film directed by Mike Figgis. The screenplay by Richard Jefferies focuses on a family terrorized by the former owner of the rural estate they bought in foreclosure.


When documentary filmmaker Cooper Tilson and his business executive wife Leah decide life in New York Citymarker has become more than they can bear, they and their children Kristen and Jesse move into a decaying mansion filled with the possessions of the previous family. They befriend local tavern owners Ray and Ellen Pinski and their daughter Stephanie, who help them purchase a horse. As Cooper begins to sort through the many documents and family photographs scattered throughout the house, he decides to commit its history to film.

Converting the dilapidated building into their dream house becomes a living nightmare for the Tilsons when previous owner Dale Massie, an uncouth redneck recently released from prison, shows up and pressures Cooper into hiring him to help with the renovations. While he initially proves to be a good worker, the underlying sense of menace he projects is unsettling. A series of terrifying incidents lead the Tilsons to research the estate's dark and lurid past. Hoping to glean some details about its history, Cooper covertly visits Dale's aging and slightly demented father in the nursing home where he is living. Seemingly disjointed comments made by the elderly man lead Cooper to believe Dale murdered his wife and children, and he begins to search his 1,200-acre property for their remains. Sheriff Annie Ferguson, sister of Dale's battered, slatternly girlfriend Ruby, is skeptical about Dale's guilt, but slowly comes to realize Cooper may be right.

Cooper's suspicions are confirmed when he and Leah discover three skeletons in Devil's Throat, a deep well, hidden in the woods. Using the walkie talkie she gave him, he contacts Sheriff Ferguson, unaware she has been attacked and disabled by Dale, who punctures the tires on Cooper's truck and sets Leah's car on fire to prevent them from escaping. Trapping them in the house in the middle of a storm that has knocked out the electricity, he forces them to rely on their wits and physical prowess to save themselves.


The filmed was shot on location in Cambridgemarker, Kitchenermarker, Ayrmarker, and Torontomarker in Ontariomarker.

The soundtrack includes "All My Ex's Live in Texas" by George Strait and "On the Road Again" by Canned Heat.


Critical reception

Stephen Holden of the New York Times observed, "A serious filmmaker like Mike Figgis can be forgiven, I suppose, for slumming, when he's got a cast as stellar as the one that infuses the scream-by-numbers thriller Cold Creek Manor with more psychological credibility than its screenplay merits." He said the film "belongs to the Cape Fear tradition of thrillers in which the mettle of a civilized family man is tested in a life-or-death struggle with crude macho evil."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated the film 1½ stars and called it "an anthology of cliches" and "a thriller that thrills us only if we abandon all common sense." He added, "Of course preposterous things happen in all thrillers, but there must be at least a gesture in the direction of plausibility, or we lose patience."

Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicle said, "As haunted-house thrillers go, Cold Creek Manor is more ludicrous than the average but at the same time more handsomely produced. Hokum with a big-budget gloss, it's a simple, formulaic nail-biter . . . The script . . . grafts from every possible thriller - most of which had pilfered their predecessors - and loads on implausibilities until we wonder why the actors play it seriously."

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone rated the film one star and commented, "It's sad to see risk-taking director Mike Figgis do a generic thriller for a paycheck and then not even screw with the rules . . . the only things haunting this movie are cliches."

Steve Persall of the St. Petersburg Times graded the film D and thought "all this bad acting and run-of-the-thrill dialogue might be entertaining if something would just happen besides a silly snake scare and a wan truck chase. The movie plays like an all-star episode of This Old House for the first hour, a telenovela for the next 30 minutes, then, finally, a hack boogeyman flick in the last reel. This isn't a movie, it's channel surfing."

Todd McCarthy of Variety called the film "a woefully predictable imperiled-yuppie-family-under-siege suspenser that hardly seems worth the attention of its relatively high-profile participants. Taking a break from his multiple-perspective digicam experiments, helmer Mike Figgis displays at best a half-hearted interest in delivering the commercial genre goods, while Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone fish in vain to find any angles to play in their dimension-free characters."

Box office

The film opened in 2,035 theaters in the United States on September 19, 2003 and grossed $8,190,574 in its opening weekend, ranking #5 at the box office behind Underworld, Secondhand Lions, The Fighting Temptations, and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. It eventually earned $21,386,011 in the US and $7,733,423 in foreign markets for a total worldwide box office of $29,119,434.

DVD release

Buena Vista Home Entertainment released the film on Region 1 DVD on March 2, 2004. It is in anamorphic widescreen format with audio tracks in English and French and subtitles in Spanish. Bonus features include commentary with director Mike Figgis; deleted scenes and an alternate ending; Rules of the Game, in which Figgis discusses the components of a psychological thriller; and Cooper's Documentary, in which he discusses the process of making the film within the film.


  1. New York Times review
  2. Chicago Sun-Times review
  3. San Francisco Chronicle review
  4. Rolling Stone review
  5. St. Petersburg Times review
  6. Variety review

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