The title Cold Creek Manor sounds like it refers to a haunted mansion, and in a nonliteral way it does, but the movie really belongs to that genre of thrillers about emasculated middle-class men forced to get in touch with their inner primitive: It’s ”Cape Fear” and ”Straw Dogs” set in an old, not-so-dark house. Dennis Quaid, looking handsome but drawn, and even more unhappy than the role calls for, is the effetely civilized family man – a struggling documentary filmmaker (how testosterone-challenged is that?) whose steely corporate wife (Sharon Stone) earns most of the bread. He decides to escape the perils of New York City by moving his family to a grand brick country farmhouse, which they proceed to renovate in ways that would make Martha Stewart clasp her hands with pride. That Quaid chooses to leave mounted on the wall a framed gallery of hammers that were once used to kill sheep can be considered either (a) a sign of the shabby-chic good taste that marks these folks as citified interlopers or (b) a woefully obvious suspense gambit.
The estate, it turns out, was once owned by the Massie family, whose sole heir, played by Stephen Dorff with a grin as greasy as his hair, is a sinister trash ne’er-do-well just out of prison. He shows up, all bluster and barely veiled threats, to volunteer his handyman services, and before long he’s swaggering around with an oily bare chest, and things around the house start to…happen. It’s up to Quaid to tap his dormant id and defeat this menace. The journey, however, is a hollow one, since Quaid and Stone, for all their efforts, never really do seem married. Perhaps that’s because Stone, with her dry-ice charisma, does everything that an actress should except connect to whomever she happens to be facing on screen.