In the rise of the digital age, the quest to find lost celluloid treasures has become more urgent than ever. Timeless classics have since been discovered in far-flung locales of the world -- a missing reel of "Metropolis" in South America, an unseen Three Stooges short in Australia, a Chaplin film in Michigan and, among 70 other finds, a presumed lost John Ford film in the New Zealand Film Archives.
In the year 2014, another film has been found.
As the lone surviving member of her family, JAMIE has inherited her great uncle Friedrich's house and belongings. Inside, she finds two reels of badly damaged 35mm film. Sending the reels to the NZ Film Archives to be analysed, the report comes back that she may have unearthed an unusual artefact of the Silent Era -- a 1925 film so rare and steeped in mystery that its existence was thought to be an urban legend. The film's title is "The Phantasmagoria". Rumours say that the silent horror masterpiece contains scenes of actual magical rites and occult philosophy, that not-yet-famous movie stars appear in small roles, that there are strange technicolor sequences and unsimulated footage of sex and mutilation that have the power to drive audiences insane.
To validate this discovery, a team of experts have come together to look at the footage: LAWRENCE - a print assessor and academic, TREY - an acquisitions rep from a distributor interested in the film, ROSE - a horror movie blogger brought to publicize the find and CARLOS - hired by Trey to document and shoot an EPK on the discovery. Viewing the two reels at the archives, they are stunned by the brief footage which features incredible illusions and camera trickery, but they are also horrified when both nitrate-reels spontaneously combust in front of their eyes!
Left without options, but thankful that the footage was recorded on Carlos' camera before it was destroyed, the team decides to return to Jamie's great uncle's house and search for the rest of the movie. But as they delver deeper, the line between reality and cinema begins to blur. Silent-movie phantoms haunt the corridors, props and costumes from the film drip with an evil aura and something malevolent stirred by the film wants to live again.
As the magic of celluloid takes hold of them in all its frightening and evil forms, our heroes come to understand that they were doomed from the moment they viewed the very first frame of "The Phantasmagoria".