Years before the haunting of the Lambert family, Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) visits the home of Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) in the hope that she can help Quinn make contact with her recently deceased mother Lillith (Ele Keats). Quinn has tried to reach her mother, feeling that Lillith has been trying to speak to her. Elise says she has long given up on this practice, but she agrees to help Quinn without taking payment. Elise attempts to make contact, only to feel a horrifying presence that strikes her with fear. She warns Quinn not to continue trying to speak to the dead, because if one of them hears, then all of them can.
At night, Quinn tries to reach her mother again. She taps on the wall and hears a noise tapping back to her.
Quinn lives with her father Sean (Dermot Mulroney) and younger brother Alex (Tate Berney). Sean is strict and cold with his children, causing Quinn to resent him. As she and Alex leave, they run into their neighbor Hector (Ashton Moio), who has a crush on Quinn. They also pass a neighbor couple, Harry and Grace (Jeris Poindexter and Phyllis Applegate). Grace suffers from Alzheimer's while Harry supports her. She tells Quinn that she has seen a mysterious man.
Quinn later skips school to audition for a performing arts school in New York. As she is getting ready, she sees a figure hidden in the shadows waving at her. She goes up to her audition and says a few lines before she gets distracted.
Later that night, Quinn meets with her friend Maggie (Haley Kiyoko), complaining about having blown her audition and not having a back-up plan for school since she really wants to get away from her home. Maggie comforts her and tells her to find another school on the opposite side of the country. They start to walk away, only for Quinn to spot the shadowy figure waving at her again. She is then struck by a car. At the hospital, the doctors try to revive her, but Quinn appears to flatline. She finds herself in a dark realm, and she sees a demonic-looking man with a breathing mask right before she is revived.
Three weeks later, Quinn is recuperating with two broken legs. She is welcomed home by her friends and neighbors. Hector writes on her cast that she's a traffic stopper. Sean gives her a little care package and a bell to ring for help.
While trying to sleep, Quinn hears a thump from the ceiling, which starts to crack. Sean goes to the apartment upstairs to investigate with the landlord, who claims nobody has lived there for a long time. They spot black slimy footprints that lead into the bedroom right above Quinn's room.
Elise is trying to sleep as well. She is awoken by a frightening jolt. She grabs a nearby book and writes Quinn's name on a blank page.
The next night, Quinn taps on the wall to the tune of "Shave and a Haircut". Another tapping sound is heard in response. Thinking it's Hector, she texts him, only to find out he's at his grandma's house. Quinn freezes in paranoia. She taps the wall again, and she sees the man with the breathing mask from behind her curtains. He appears to slither under the bed. She looks under, only to get grabbed and thrown to the floor. The demon walks by and tracks black footprints. He closes the door and lunges at Quinn, alerting Sean as he hears her screaming.
Elise decides she ought to help Quinn. She gets a key that she wears around her neck and goes to open a door to the basement, only to be stopped. She then hears a noise and sees her key missing. On the floor are grimy footprints. She follows them to the basement and on the wall. The demon attacks Elise and frightens the hell out of her.
Sean and Quinn learn that Grace has passed away in her sleep. Sean comforts Harry as he weeps and talks about how much he loved her.
Quinn sleeps on the couch and sees the ceiling cracking again. She hides under the covers. When she pulls them off, she finds herself in her wheelchair out in the hall. The demon wheels her into the room upstairs. A version of Quinn without a face, hands, or feet crawls toward her while the demon throws Quinn to the floor again. Sean runs to find her, wondering what she's doing up there. They look out a broken window to see someone on the ground that appears to have jumped. Quinn looks over and is nearly pulled out by the demon. Sean pulls her back in, injuring her neck.
Sean visits Elise to seek her help. She wants to help, but she remembers her late husband Jack (Adrian Sparks), who committed suicide long ago. She tried to use her gift to contact him, but it only introduced her to the menacing spirit of a woman that threatens to kill her. Still, she goes to the Brenner home and tries to help. Elise gathers Quinn and Sean as she enters into the dark realm. She comes across the spirits of other deceased women, including one standing outside the window in the rain, and another whose face appears behind her head. Elise then encounters the Bride in Black/Parker Crane, who attempts to strangle Elise. She breaks free and refuses to continue.
Alex shows Sean a video of the paranormal bloggers Tucker and Specs (Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell), suggesting they can offer their services. Reluctantly, Sean calls them in. Here, Tucker has a wacky mohawk. With their equipment, they put a night-vision camera on Quinn's head to record any supernatural activity while they're awake to see it. While Quinn sleeps, the lights go out. Sean, Tucker, and Specs look through the monitor to see the camera moving toward the hall where they are. Specs goes to take a look and sees nothing. They follow the camera into Quinn's closet. Sean finds only the camera in there. Quinn appears behind Tucker and kicks him in the leg with her cast, along with Specs and Sean. She has become possessed by the demon, who causes her to smash the casts off her not-yet-fully-healed legs. He makes Quinn say that Sean is a terrible father and that Lillith is better off dead, and now Quinn should be too. She grabs a box cutter and nearly slits her throat until the men subdue her.
Elise meets her friend Carl (Steve Coulter) in a restaurant. She has the photos of a young Josh Lambert with the Bride in Black behind him. Elise still doubts the good in her gift and how she could ever help anyone else. Carl assures her that she is strong enough to overcome anything.
Elise joins Quinn and the men in her room as Quinn is still tied up. She knows she must travel back into the dark realm, which she decides to name The Further. She has Specs write down what she sees while Tucker records it. As Elise enters The Further, she sees the woman in the rain, knowing that the demon caused her to kill herself. Elise is attacked by the Bride in Black again, who attempts to strangle her again. Elise decides it is not her time to die, breaks free from the demon's clutches and tosses her (him?) aside. She beckons the demon with "Bring it, bitch", but the Bride in Black sinks into the darkness. Elise continues moving and finds Jack sitting on a bed. He gives her a razor so that she can join him. Knowing that Jack would never ask her to do this, she slashes his face, revealing him to be the demon that can't breathe. The freaky version of Quinn crawls up around them again, with a slightly formed mouth. Elise realizes this is the part of Quinn that is almost fully controlled by the demon.
Elise returns to the living world and stumble backwards. She says she heard the voice of Grace telling her that Lillith was trying to send Quinn a message. Elise looks in Quinn's diary to find a note from Lillith, saying she would always be there for her and that she is strong. Elise calls to Lillith, summoning her spirit to bring Quinn strength. The demon holds Quinn in The Further, until Quinn becomes fully formed and pulls the breathing mask off of him, causing him to disintegrate and be vanquished.
Quinn is now freed from the demon's grasp. Elise tells her that she has spoken to Lillith. She was there to watch Quinn's audition, and she was so proud of her. Quinn cries tears of joy, despite knowing that this can never happen again.
When all is said and done, Elise decides to go into business with Tucker and Specs. She knows that she will probably be killed by the Bride in Black, but she doesn't care because she knows her time will eventually come. They walk away together and she tells them they ought to dress in shirts and ties.
Back home, Elise is in her room with her dog. She sees a knitted vest on her bed, then proclaims her love for Jack. Suddenly, the dog starts barking into the closet. We see the faintly visible face of the Bride in Black. As Elise looks into the closet, the Lipstick-Faced Demon pops out from behind her.
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