The Possession of Hannah Grace (2018) Review

The Possession of Hannah Grace

Directed by Diederik Van Rooijen

“The Exorcist” is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year bearing the honorary title of “the scariest film ever made” and without a doubt could also be considered the most imitated. If not for the slasher boom born of the late 70s/early 80s hopes to duplicate the runaway success of “Halloween,” the glut of green pea spewing demonic darlings dotting the cinematic landscape of the first half of the “Me Decade” would probably hold the copycat crown. The latter half of the 1980s and pretty much all the 1990s abandoned the subgenre until the “The Exorcist” itself spilled into theaters to shock the next generation at the start of the new millennium with “The Version You’ve Never Seen” and a few years later with a prequel that failed not once but twice to put a spell on audiences. Then a curious casting occurred as films like “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “Paranormal Activity,” “The Possession,” “The Devil Inside,” “The Last Exorcism” and “Deliver Us from Evil” filled studio collection plates, even if not all offerings overflowed with critical praise. The films are usually cheap (“Paranormal Activity” allegedly cost $15k or possible less,) have small to medium casts, often only a few locations and usually don’t require any marquee names to deliver an ROI that would seem to be indicative a deal with the proverbial devil. “The Possession of Hannah Grace” fits all these categories and more; made for about $10 million ($20 million plus if you factor in advertising), has a principal cast of 8 largely unknown actors (the three leads are all TV series mainstays) and almost all locations are interior. While no major risk was taken here in any sense, it also leads to no spectacular payoff.

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“The Possession of Hannah Grace” does start with a promising premise and a bit of a ballsy move with the titular characters exorcism’s end lasting the whole of a five-minute prologue with Hannah dead by her father’s (genetic not Catholic) own hand. Three months later and we meet Megan (Shay Mitchell) who has begun a graveyard shift at a Boston hospital morgue, a role where she will be alone battling her own demons, many of which are from her previous position as a cop on the beat. She adjusts well to the new position until she encounters a stranger attempting to break into the sealed sanctity of the morgue and its further violation with the arrival of the bruised, bloody and battered body of Hannah Grace (well played by Kirby Johnson), her icy blue eye agape, fiery, penetrating. Every goes awry; the photographic equipment malfunctions, the lights flicker, the threat grows…

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Megan, her friend Lisa (who is also a nurse at the hospital, played by Stana Katic) and Andrew (Grey Damon who is a former fellow officer and Megan’s one-time boyfriend) all realize the impending doom far too late with the other denizens of the zero hour evening (an EMT named Randy played by Nick Thule, a pair of security guards Ernie and Dave portrayed by Jacob Ming-Trent and Max McNamara respectively) while Hannah stalks the night. While a few of the characters fates are well done (including the introduction), most are very repetitive. A couple scenes elicit some genuine unease but many are environmental and involve Hannah minimally, if at all. Her makeup and the SFX are creepy but with a lean 90-minute running time, the slow burn is minor – enough to singe but never engulf. Everyone turns in a decent performance but there’s neither an abundance or even quality of scares to make “The Possession of Hannah Grace” memorable. Those hopeful for the excellent “Autopsy of Jane Doe” (whose premise this film apes more than a little) are likely to leave thinking of “The Lazarus Effect.”

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“The Possession of Hannah Grace” is a popcorn possession film in the vein of “The Devil Inside” or “The Possession” – it won’t revive your faith in the subgenre but it’s a fun little service, an apt enough exercise in exorcism.  If the script (originally titled “Cadaver”) had been more willing to do something even half as bold and cerebral as “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” this could have harbored real substance. Instead the line was towed (or is that toetagged?) that though “The Possession of Hannah Grace” isn’t dead on arrival, its debut box office performance, critical thrashing and this viewing don’t have much hope for a second coming of “The Exorcist” – all one can do now is pray for Hannah Grace…

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