Diederik van Rooijen’s supernatural horror film The Possession of Hannah Grace brings in all the typical elements of the “possession” or “exorcism” genre in a comparatively unusual space, but it ultimately fails to deliver in almost every possible way. Set in Boston, the film follows ex-police officer Megan Reed who takes on a new night shift job at Boston Metro Hospital’s morgue after an incident while on police patrol makes her unfit for duty. It is while on her job at the morgue that things take a horrific turn, as a battered and burnt corpse is brought to the building. The corpse is identified as that of a certain Hannah Grace, and Megan soon finds out from records that Hannah had been killed in an exorcism but the demon still lives and breathes in her, waiting to pounce back to life.
While the film’s title and the opening sequence focus on Hannah Grace, there is ultimately not much said about her. Suffering from severe depression and then possessed by an extremely powerful devil, there had been multiple attempts of exorcism on Hannah, all of them in the presence of her father who provides all this information to Megan, but to no avail. But how a demon takes over her soul or even how she ends up in Boston are all kept unmentioned. Instead, it is Megan Reed who becomes the primary subject of the film, first as a nervous assistant on morgue duty at night and then as the hero who saves it all. Megan deals with her own depression and trauma-induced issues, and these blend into the aesthetics of horror in the film.
Many of the initial scenes of horror appear like hallucinations of Megan’s troubled mind, and her friend Lisa takes her frightful report of a demon-corpse inside the morgue as a side-effect of taking medicines she is not supposed to take. By the end of the film, it is Megan triumphing over her own internal fears and issues that saves the day and puts an end to the chaos.
Despite the film presenting horror scenes in a subtle and restrained manner in the initial minutes, every sense of subtlety is thrown out the window as Hannah (or the demon in her) is powerful enough to move around on its own. While many of the scary chills in the first part of the film happen in the background, which is often blurry as the camera focuses on a character in the foreground, the latter part shows the possessed corpse chasing and killing workers inside the building. There is much stress on gore and bloodshed throughout the film, in the opening scene itself a Catholic priest is impaled on a structure of nails, but it is not enough to create a sense of convincing fear or disgust.
Cinematography is average at its best moments and simply bad at times. The camera work brings nothing special to the cinematic language of the film, and during times when the demon’s powers are on display, it shakes terribly to become a part of the narrative experience, which only makes the whole scene look amateur and unconvincing. There is nothing to write home about lighting or sound either, elements which are often the base of what makes a horror film good.
The Possession of Hannah Grace is, however, not an utter disappointment from the beginning. With the introduction of a potentially flawed and self-doubting character in Hannah, and then the intimidating and unusually empty morgue building, the film shows a lot of promise in the first few minutes. The morgue section of the hospital is a huge hall with tall bare walls and motion-sensor lights which go out after every few minutes of inactivity, and the entire design of the space with the room where the dead bodies are kept, the elevator leading down to the intake bay, and the many corridors and hallways hold a lot of promise for an interesting spine-tingling narrative to play out in. But unfortunately, none of that happens in the film, other than a few scenes of possessed Hannah crawling down the corridor or on the gigantic walls. It is in this aspect that the film falters the most, in its inability to deliver what it somewhat promises, or at least, hinted at. With so much that could have been done so much better, it makes the watch an ultimately disappointing and even frustrating experience at times.
A shaky plot with convenient progression and loop-holes and a somewhat average performance by most of the actors do not help the film either. Shay Mitchell as Megan Reed does well enough to make her character convincing and relatable at many times, but the narrative and visuals mostly take away all sense of conviction and relatability from the overall experience. The Possession of Hannah Grace becomes absurd and unconvincing to those casually watching a horror film, and an absolute disappointment to serious watchers of the supernatural horror genre. It can be given a casual watch if one is looking specifically at the horror genre, but for anything more serious than that, the film takes way too big a bite than it can end up chewing.
The Possession Of Hannah Grace is a 2018 Drama Horror film directed by Diederik Van Rooijen.