After witnessing the suicide of her mother, Felicity, when she was only nine years old, Maddie Cullen has been haunted by nightmares of the event and fear that one day she may inherit her mother’s mental instability and meet the same fate. Now 17 years old, she exudes the facade of a beautiful, good-girl cheerleader, but internally, she struggles emotionally and obsesses over wishing she could ask her mother why she did it.
Maddie, and her little sister, Gracie, are raised by their very dedicated father, Reed. Gracie is possibly clairvoyant and asserts that she can talk to their dead mother through her dreams.
Maddie’s best friend since kindergarten, Gabby, looks like Maddie’s polar opposite. Edgy and promiscuous, Gabby was raised by Ashley, a single mom who had her at 16. Her grandmother, Gigi, had always been her rock.
When Gigi passes away, Gabby becomes fixated on the idea of trying to communicate with her. She finds a covert website about communicating with the dead—a man known as The Alchemist claims he can help people talk to deceased loved ones.
Gabby and Maddie visit The Alchemist in his creepy antique store. He takes them into a secret, black room with nothing inside but a rotary phone on a small table. They simply have to dial the number of their loved one on the phone and they will be connected to them from beyond the grave. The girls are stunned and overcome with emotion when it actually works.
The Alchemist gives them a set of rules that must be followed when making these calls—one of which is to never make the calls alone, without him present.
The Alchemist’s antique store is full of eerie items. As the girls continue to visit, they witness disturbing things happening in the store which lead them to believe it’s haunted. One of these items is an old mirror which seems to reflect a sinister alternate reality. The Alchemist calmly explains the creepy incidents away by reminding the girls that his place is, in fact, a very transcendental place, and spirits know that, and therefore may pass through.
Maddie and Gabby, along with their boyfriends, go to a lake house for the weekend. There, in a spare bedroom, the girls find an old rotary phone. With little hesitation, they decide to break one of the rules and try calling their dead mom and grandmother. Their calls do go through—but something is off. The voices on the other end become distorted and say unsettling things. They hang up the phone, and it rings back to them. They unplug it from the wall—and it continues to ring. They throw it out the window, smashing it onto the pavement below, but their cell phones now begin to ring—caller ID revealing that it is their dead relatives.
Terrified, they run downstairs waking up their boyfriends to go home. The doors and windows slam shut, and when they try to escape, they are thrown back in. Something is not letting them leave. Then—RING—the rotary phone has been pieced back together and placed back inside the house. Ghostlike shadow people and other nightmarish demons haunt them through the night.
When they make it out in the morning, they decide to go to The Alchemist for help. They broke one of his rules by making the call without him, and they assume he can stop the horror they are experiencing and stop whatever they invited in. Once inside The Alchemist’s black room, they realize he was prepping them for possession all along—he wants their souls.
Maddie is more vulnerable and broken, so she falls deeper into the grips of The Alchemist’s demons—further into the grips of possession. As the demon pulls her deeper into his grasp, she feels herself drowning into the proverbial lake, reminiscent of her mother’s suicide. Her friends try to fight for her, but the strength to overcome the demon (and, symbolically, her inner demons) must come from within. When she has almost lost the battle, she hears her little sister’s voice calling to her—begging her to fight harder. She breaks through and escapes—soul intact.
After some time passes, with the terror of recent events seemingly behind her, Maddie goes for a walk and passes an outdoor flea market. Looking down at her phone, double clicking posts on Instagram, she doesn’t notice that she passes by an antique stand—with an old mirror propped up in front—the old mirror from his antique store—The Alchemist faintly looking back at us from the other side, lying in wait until he finds his next vulnerable victim.