Wanting to escape New York life for the countryside, Cooper (Quaid) and Leah Tilson (Stone), along with their two children, move into a dilapidated old mansion still filled with the possessions of the previous family. Turning it into their new dream home soon becomes a nightmare when the previous owner Dale Massie (Dorff) shows up, and a series of terrifying incidents lead them on a spine-tingling search for clues of the estate's dark and lurid past.
Tropes seen in the film include:
- Ax-Crazy: Dale. He killed his wife and children, begins psychologically terrorising the Tilsons, kills his father for spilling the beans about him, and tries to kill Cooper and Leah in the climax.
- Battle Couple: In the climax Leah and Cooper work together to defeat Dale.
- Closed Circle: The climax features Cooper and Leah stuck at the house with Dale, after he sabotages their cars and cuts off the electricity.
- Domestic Abuse: One of several incidents that causes Cooper to become suspicious of Dale is witnessing him hitting his girlfriend in a bar. It's later revealed that Dale murdered his wife and children.
- Lost Pet Grievance: Kristen's pet horse is found dead and Cooper suspects Dale.
- Old, Dark House: The primary setting is the titular Cold Creek Manor, a remote and dilatated country mansion the Tilsons have recently purchased and plan to renovate. They start to believe something dark and sinister happened to the previous residents, especially as creepy things start happening once former owner Dale shows up.
- Pater Familicide: Cooper begins to suspect Dale murdered missing his wife and children, whom Dale claims abandoned him after he went to prison. Cooper and Leah eventually discover their bodies in the property's well.
- Taking the Kids: Dale says his wife left him and took their children with her when he was convicted. They're actually buried in the well.
- A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Dale appears to be a friendly, well-meaning man who offers to help the Tilsons fix up their new house, given his experience with the property, but Cooper in particular begins to suspect he has a darker side and is to blame for the sinister goings-on. Dale turns out to be a murderous psycho who plans to make the Tilsons his next victims once they uncover his crimes.
- Would Harm a Senior: Dale smothers to death his elderly, dementia-stricken father after he reveals he knows about Dale's crimes.