*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
The film opens on an airplane. A young man named Carter (Zach Roerig) looks distressed. The woman next to him, Faith (Laura Wiggins), asks him what's wrong. Carter explains that a week ago, he watched a video with disturbing images, and then he received a phone call telling him he would die in seven days, five minutes from the current time. Carter goes to the bathroom as the plane starts to experience turbulence. Faith's friend Kelly (Lizzie Brochere) comes back and hears the story from Faith. Kelly freaks out because she's seen the video too. She goes to the bathroom to get Carter. The plane then starts to go down. Black sludge oozes out of the bathroom. Carter backs away, and from the cockpit emerges a swarm of flies. On the monitor, Carter sees Samara Morgan (Bonnie Morgan) emerge from a well and out into the plane.
Two years later, a college student named Skye (Aimee Teegarden) is at a yard sale and sees a VCR with some tapes. A professor named Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) mentions that the stuff came from Carter's father after he died in the plane crash.
Later that night, after Gabriel and Skye have slept together, Gabriel tweaks the VCR and out pops the dreaded tape. Gabriel watches it and sees weird images before the phone rings. A voice on the other line simply says "Seven days". The rain outside then starts moving upward.
We meet Julia (Matilda Lutz) and her boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe). Holt is going off to college. Later, the two have a Skype chat, but Holt gets pulled away by his roommates to go hang out.
Julia has a dream that Holt goes to visit her, but it turns into a nightmare when she sees something frightening come at her. She wakes up and sees she's getting a video call from Holt. Julia answers it, but it's Skye looking panicked and claiming that "she" is coming.
Julia drives to Holt's college to investigate. She goes into his dorm room and finds his class schedule. Julia sneaks into Gabriel's class to look for Holt, but nobody will tell her where he is. She continues walking through the building and comes across a book written by Gabriel detailing the mystery of Samara. Julia goes by a student lounge and overhears Gabriel and Skye talking about Holt in regards to something urgent. Julia follows Skye to her car as she recognizes her from the video chat. Skye tells Julia to go with her, making Julia think that she will take her to Holt.
Skye brings Julia to her apartment. Julia looks at Skye's phone and sees a message from Holt while Skye is setting something up on her laptop. When Julia responds to Holt, he warns her not to watch whatever Skye is about to show her. Skye gets mad and tries to get Julia to watch the tape, but Julia locks herself in Skye's bathroom. The clock reads 7:10, and Skye becomes terrified. She smashes her laptop and thinks she's made it, but the TV turns on. Skye unplugs it, but it still turns on. She pulls it off the wall and turns it facedown, but it STILL turns on. Samara then crawls out of the screen and looks at Skye, killing her. Samara then appears to open the bathroom door on Julia, but when the door opens, nobody is there. Julia tries leaving, but the door is locked. She reaches into Skye's jacket pocket for her keys, and Skye's head turns to reveal her twisted face. Julia leaves and runs into Holt, who tells her to stay with him.
Holt explains what he saw and tells Julia not to watch it. He watched the video after Skye did and they were both looking for someone to pass it onto (a "tail") so that they may be spared a gruesome death. Julia opens his laptop while he's sleeping and watches the video, then receives the "Seven days" phone call. Julia has a vision involving Samara before getting snapped out of it by Holt. She has a burn mark on her hand from the phone handle. Holt then gets a call from Gabriel about a tail, but Holt says it's no longer him that needs it.
Julia and Holt go to meet with Gabriel. Holt explains that Gabriel told him, Skye, and other students about an experiment that would let them "unlock a soul". On the drive, Julia sees a bird hit Holt's windshield and break it. When she looks back, the windshield is fine, but there was indeed a bird that hit the car and is writhing on the ground.
The three try to make a copy of the tape to pass it on to someone else. The file turns out to be too big to copy. Upon further inspection, they discover that there is a "tape within the tape", featuring more footage. The bird from before is in there, along with a church, a swarm of insects flying around, and other weird images.
Julia learns the legend of Samara Morgan and how her parents thought she was evil, so she was dropped down a well to die, but ended up surviving over seven days before eventually dying. Julia and Holt figure that Samara's soul is trapped and wants to get out, so they need to find where she was buried and burn her remains. News reports indicate that she was not given a proper burial.
Julia starts to see a vision of a pregnant woman standing in the middle of nowhere, which she saw in the other video. She and Holt stay at a motel as they look for Samara's burial site. They go to a graveyard and break into a tomb where Samara was supposedly buried. Julia encounters another freaky vision before getting pulled out. The groundskeeper knows who it is that they are looking for.
Julia and Holt are brought to the home of Burke (Vincent D'Onofrio), a blind former priest with connections to Samara. Julia explains her vision to Burke and what she's been seeing.
On the ride back to the motel, the road is closed off due to an accident. Julia sees the pregnant woman again and gets out of the car. She and Holt discover the victim of the car accident is Gabriel. They try to save him, but Gabriel is electrocuted when the wires break off and hit water that leaked below.
Holt sees a photo in the motel lobby with the pregnant woman. The clerk, Karen (Jill Jane Clements), says the woman was Evelyn, later revealed to be Samara's mother.
Julia later finds Samara's bones kept in Burke's home. She also learns that Burke was Samara's father. Burke attacks Julia before Samara crawls out of the TV. Burke makes eye contact with Samara and is killed.
Julia and Holt take Samara's bones and burn them, setting her soul free.
Later on, Julia is taking a shower while Holt listens to messages left by Gabriel. He mentioned that the mark on Julia's hand is in braille. Holt looks up the symbols online from a picture that Gabriel had scanned of Julia's hand. Meanwhile, Julia sees the burn is peeling off and the skin underneath is gray. She then gags and pulls out a long strand of hair that's rolled up into a ball. Holt finds out that the mark means "rebirth". Suddenly, the computer goes haywire and starts sending copies of the video to everyone that Holt knows. People watch it and react as Holt tries to stop it. Julia then looks in the mirror and wipes it, revealing Samara staring back at her.