Instead of scaring you to death, The Possession of Hannah Grace will bore you to death
Unlike most horror sub-genres that have found reasons to exist primarily because of their commercial success, the exorcism/demonic possession genre pretty much began and ended with William Friedkin’s 1973 horror classic The Exorcist. Sure, a number of ‘possession’ movies have been made since then but none of them have been any good and most of them have not performed particularly well at the box office.
This, however, did not stop the filmmakers behind The Possession of Hannah Grace from attempting to bring new life to a genre that till now has been largely lifeless.
The film centres on a former cop, Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell), who's recently gotten out of rehab and finds herself working the graveyard shift as an intake assistant at a local hospital. Things take a drastic turn one night with the arrival of a young girl’s deeply disfigured corpse. This isn’t any corpse but rather that of Hannah Grace, a girl whose botched exorcism and eventual death failed to free her body from the possession of demonic forces.
Though the premise at heart is not particularly a bad one and the notion of being stuck in a morgue with a demonic ‘undead’ cadaver is inherently creepy. However, there is no execution to speak of and The Possession of Hannah Grace exists as yet another forgettable addition to the exorcism movie umbrella. Looking at it, it’s hard to pinpoint even a single redeeming feature that could justify watching it.
Clocking at just over 85 minutes and set almost completely in a hospital, this film could have been a tightly constructed single-location thriller in the hands of even a marginally talented filmmaker. In the hands of Director Diederik Van Rooijen, however, it is a tedious and repetitive exercise in attempting to scare the audience. Even the jump scares feel rushed and fail to land effectively, leaving the film to rely solely on the shock-factor of Hannah Grace’s possessed cadaver.
And to the film’s credit, the makeup is pretty creepy. One or two times, it even makes you squirm. But when you see the same creepy smiling corpse for the umpteenth time, you fail to register an expression.
The plot also happens to make very little sense. Unlike most horror movies, there are no real ‘rules’ to speak of and the titular corpse can do pretty much anything from crawling like a mangled spider to walking through walls. What’s more, the characters besides our protagonist Megan largely exist as sheep waiting to be slaughtered. Because once they disappear, there’s no real attempt to search for them or look where they went until they unsurprisingly turn up dead.
From the constantly rising body-count to the seminal exorcism scene, this film has all the obligatory clichés but very little ideas to actually keep you interested on anything more than a superficial level. The filmmakers try to give the story some depth through Mitchell’s character and her tragic backstory, but the flashback sequences are far too vacuous to make you empathise with Megan, and Mitchell’s innocuous performance doesn’t really do much to make the film any more interesting. Even the ending comes across as sudden and unexpected and feels more like the film ran out of money.
The funny thing is that the film’s low budget appeal could actually have worked in its favour had Director Rooijen shown some restraint and relied on suspense to deliver the scares. Instead, he relies on a derivative and repetitive approach that more than anything leaves you bored.
All photos: Sony Pictures Entertainment
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