Dennis does Menace

Three recently watched horror(ish) movies starring Dennis Quaid.

Cold Creek Manor (2003)

Dennis plays documentary maker Cooper Tilson, who moves to an isolated house in the country with wife Leah (Sharon Stone), daughter Kristen (Kristen Stewart, who presumably got the role because of her name and ability to convincingly play a bratty teenager), and son Jesse (Ryan Wilson – never heard of again), whose near death in an RTA was the prompt for their relocation from the big, crazy city. Almost immediately they connect with former owner Brad Massie (Stephen Dorff in fine fettle), who lost the house to the bank after his wife and children left him for parts unknown. Feeling guilty that they got his family home for a song, the couple hire Brad to help with the renovations that are needed, but he has an agenda of his own, which does not bode well for the Tilson family. The plot precis on the back of the DVD case suggests that there is something spooky about these goings on, but in reality the story is entirely grounded in psychology and has more in common with such outings as The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Dorff makes a very credible psychopath, waging a campaign of terror against the family, while background details of the house’s history add another frisson. There’s an interesting backdrop too, with some of the close knit community resentful of the outsiders who have got a bargain at the cost to one of their own, feelings which Cooper exacerbates by his own behaviour, so that at times his prying makes you almost sympathise with Brad. On the downside, I wondered exactly what the Cooper children did for school, wasn’t entirely convinced by the family’s reasons for relocation and speed in doing so, and thought the ending was unconvincing and needlessly dragged out for dramatic effect. Slightly more to enjoy than not, but not really the film I was expecting and one that could have been much better had they worked a bit more on the human interest angle and played up to subplot regarding the insularity of rural communities.

Horsemen (2009)

A film that wants to be the new Seven but is a five at best. Dennis is detective Aidan Breslin, investigating a series of horrific murders that he believes have a Biblical backdrop and are being committed by a group modelling themselves on the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Breslin is distanced from his two young sons, whose mother died in a car crash three years previously, failing as a father through always putting his work first. As the case progresses he comes to see that he has been targeted by the killers for a reason that horrifies even more than the murders. There is a sense of despair to this film, a feeling that the killings are a cry for help from those emotionally isolated from their families, who believe that killing is the only way to get attention (and to say more, would be to stray into spoiler territory, if I haven’t done so already). But set against the gore effects and convincing grittiness, is the sheer unreality of what is taking place, the way in which the horsemen go from killing others to killing themselves, the economic and physical constraints that their actions would seem to pose and for which no satisfactory explanation is provided. The idea is intriguing, and some of the characters, particularly Ziyi Zhang who is engagingly over the top as Kristin, are thoroughly engaging, but overall this simply isn’t convincing, asks too much of the viewer in the way of suspension of disbelief.

Legion (2010)

Dennis plays Bob, the owner of a roadside diner in the New Mexico desert that is on its last legs. Pregnant waitress Charlie is carrying the saviour of humanity and, with the end of days pending, archangel Michael (played by Paul Bettany with a poker face, bad attitude, and case filled with automatic weaponry) turns up to save Charlie and child from an angelic horde champing at the bit to slay her and put matters apocalyptic beyond any last minute save. By way of a finale we have Michael taking on rival archangel Gabriel. Well now, Prophecy it ain’t. On the other hand substitute robots for machines, and the future for Heaven, and you’re close to Terminator 2 territory, even down to the survivors driving off into the sundown in their jeep as ominous music plays at the end. Best you can say about the cast is that they’re competent enough in roles that make no real demand on their talents. The star of the show here is the sfx, with some mildly gob smacking scenes committed to celluloid, such as the final fight between the angels, and the Ice Cream Man with his pneumatic arms and legs, but my personal favourite was the nasty granny and her wall crawling antics. Okay, it’s all entirely predictable, even if it seems to be edging towards the controversial with angels in lieu of demons as the bad guys and the idea of a God who isn’t omniscient and can be shown how to act better, and most of what appears on the screen has been done before and mostly better, but as long as you don’t take it seriously this is an entertaining enough odyssey into the end of days subgenre. And I really do like the idea that God could get tired of all the bullshit. Yes, that needed saying. I’m not God, and even I’m tired of all the bullshit.

I see that I have three SF films starring Dennis Quaid sitting patiently in my TBV pile, so we could come back to this actor at some point in the future.

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