Since childhood, college student Kelly Fairchild has suffered from a recurring nightmare in which a strange man is burned alive in her childhood home. Hoping to unravel the meaning of the nightmare, Kelly pitches a term project idea to Peter, the graduate assistant in her psychology seminar, about it. Peter agrees to perform a sleep study on Kelly, but her mother, Frances, subsequently forbids it. Meanwhile, at a psychiatric hospital miles away, several patients escape, and a nurse is murdered. Frances is notified of this incident by phone, and informs Kelly's father, Dwight.
Kelly prepares to partake in her sorority's initiation ritual which entails her and a group of other pledges breaking into her father's multilevel department store after hours and stealing the night porter's uniform. Kelly, her friend Marcia, and roommates Alison and Beth are the four main pledges. On the night of the initiation, Dwight departs for a business trip, but is brutally stabbed to death outside his car. The murderer leaves in Dwight's car with his corpse in the trunk.
Just before Kelly and the other pledges arrive at the department store, the night porter is murdered while doing rounds. Beth decides to quit, leaving Kelly, Marcia, and Alison alone. The three split up, and Kelly heads to the lounge upstairs to retrieve one of the spare uniforms. Meanwhile, head sorority sister Megan lets coeds Chad, Ralph, and Andy break into the store to scare the pledges. Shortly after, Andy is killed with a hatchet and Megan is shot to death with a bow and arrow. Ralph and Chad successfully scare Kelly and Marcia by hiding in a dressing room. After uniting with Alison, all five attempt to leave the store, but are locked inside.
At the university, Peter and his colleague, Heidi, comes across newspaper clippings detailing the fire Kelly described in her dream; the articles reveal the burning man's identity as Jason Randall, a floor manager at the Fairchild department store who was at one time married to Frances. Peter suspects that Jason is in fact Kelly's biological father, and that her nightmare is a memory of him being burned in an altercation with Frances' lover Dwight, who subsequently raised Kelly as his own daughter. A recent article on the inmates' revolt at the hospital reveals Jason is a groundskeeper there, and that he was among the prisoners who escaped. Peter drives to the Fairchild residence to notify Frances of his discoveries.
Alison and Chad wander around the store together. While Chad is in the bathroom, Alison discovers the night porter's body, followed by Chad's corpse in a bathroom stall. A traumatized Alison locates Kelly, who instructs her to hide at a security desk on the ground floor. Kelly enters the bathroom and sees Chad's body, as well as her name written in blood on a mirror. Meanwhile, Alison is attacked at the security desk and viciously stabbed to death.
Ralph and Marcia have sex in a retail display bed, before Ralph is shot dead with a harpoon gun. Marcia flees through the store, and is met by Kelly. They seek safety inside a freight elevator, but it is soon infiltrated by the killer, who drags Marcia into the elevator shaft. Kelly escapes and flees into the store's boiler room, where she encounters Jason, whom she assumes to be the killer. He pursues her to the roof, where she bludgeons him with a pipe, causing him to fall to the ground below.
Peter and Frances arrive at the store and find Jason lying on the ground, clinging to life. Inside, Peter sees whom he believes to be Kelly standing in the store foyer and embraces her before she stabs him in the stomach. Kelly stumbles upon the scene and is faced with a reflection of herself: Her disturbed twin sister Terry, who has been institutionalized since childhood when Frances left their father and married Dwight, and of whom Kelly has no memory. Just as Terry is about to murder Kelly, she is shot to death by Frances. The film ends as a wounded Peter is taken away in an ambulance, while Kelly stares at her mother in disbelief.
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