“The Possession of Hannah Grace” was obviously made to be dark.
After all, it’s about an exorcism that goes horribly wrong, followed by even more chaos months later at a morgue. The goal might not have been to make it visually hard to make out, but for most of the movie that’s what you get, this is a mostly scare free film.
Dutch director Diederik Van Rooijen’s movie mostly takes place in the middle of the night at a hospital, which promotes doom and gloom. (The exterior is actually the Boston City Hall building, transformed slightly with a bit of signage.) Once inside, though, everything else is dark too: the lobby, the hallways, the women’s bathroom and especially the morgue. Van Rooijen and screenwriter Brian Sieve actually use that room’s lighting as a vaguely intriguing plot point: It operates on motion sensors, turning on with a clickclickclick and an ominous buzz whenever someone enters. (The overhead lamps also happen to be shaped like a cross, in a not-so-subtle bit of symbolism.)
Perhaps it’s a creative pick an effort to craft a disturbing feel. But for the most part just really hard to make out. It also doesn’t provide a helping hand that “The Possession of Hannah Grace” is one-note in its ominous tone, laced with sporadic jump scares.
“Hannah Grace” 1st 5 minutes is centered on the title character (Kirby Johnson) undergoing an exorcism gone wrong. This is where most movies about demonic possession might end; here, it’s just the start. Because three months later, Hannah’s body turns up at the morgue on what just happens to be the first night of work for Megan (Shay Mitchell of “Pretty Little Liars”), a new intake assistant. The stoic Megan is a former cop battling demons and substance abuse issues; newly clean, she hopes for a fresh start at … the morgue. This is basically all we know about this character. (In order to secure the job, though, she insists in a winking bit of foreshadowing: “I believe when you die, you die. End of story.”) We know even less about the young woman who gives the film its title and serves as its driving narrative force.
Anyway, Megan tries to run through all the steps she’s just learned as far as photographing and fingerprinting the body before placing it in storage, but Hannah Grace’s overwhelming evil even in cold corpse form throws everything out of whack. In no time, she’s sneaking out of her drawer when no one’s looking and wreaking havoc on the few employees who have the misfortune of being on duty during the graveyard shift. This central premise is the only compelling element of Sieve’s script, but it’s executed in dreary fashion.
Part of the problem is that the rules are unclear. Sometimes Hannah Grace crawls in a crablike way, her mangled and bony body making a crackcrackcrack noise with every jumpy movement. (The sound design is indeed creepy the first time around with all these auditory tricks, but quickly grows repetitive.) Sometimes, she walks upright. Sometimes, she leaps forward or skitters up a wall. She can interfere with cell phone signals and power lines and move entire ambulances with just a slight shove but wastes her time hanging around the hospital and waits to inflict her wrath on Megan until the end.
We’d have no movie otherwise and as is, “Hannah Grace” is barely 85 minutes, with an ending so abrupt that you’ll wonder whether you’ve missed something. Think of it as a combination of “The Last Shift” and “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” both of these are terrific horror films in their own right, coupling mystery and horror together but “Hannah Grace” misses the mark on nearly all fronts here, apart from the fact that Megan fails too let anyone else know what she is seeing until its way too late.
Rated R for gruesome images and terror throughout
The violence is pretty heavy here
- Word of caution sensuality/Nudity The main character can be seen showering in the beginning. Brief and unclear side view of her breast can be seen.
- Hannah Grace’s body is fully naked throughout the movie but her hands cover her breasts. Her pubic region is also covered with her crossed legs. However, towards the end of the movie, outline of her exposed breasts can be seen when she is attacking Megan.