Film Review: The Possession of Hannah Grace

How a promising new horror film did not capitalize on its assets

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Film Review: The Possession of Hannah Grace

Isabella Que, Writer

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A possessed Hannah Grace (Kirby Johnson)

Director: Diederik Van Rooijen
Producer: Todd Garner, Sean Robins
Starring: Shay Mitchell, Grey Damon, Kirby Johnson
Release: November 29, 2018

Spoilers to Follow

The Possession of Hannah Grace follows the story of former cop, Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell), and her encounter with a possessed corpse. Reed, who is fresh out of rehab, takes a job working the graveyard shift at a morgue, but soon she realizes that there are supernatural forces at work, killing those around her. As the bodies add up, Reed must rely on her past experiences to make it through the night alive.
My first critique of the movie is the opening scene. We see the failed exorcism of young woman, Hannah Grace (Kirby Johnson). This scene, while expertly shot, is overly cliché. Picture a dark, dilapidated room that is completely devoid of furniture with the exception of a wire framed bed. The scene is reminiscent of The Exorcist and lacks creativity and originality in an overdone trope that is all too common to horror films. Despite the lack of originality, the (failed) exorcism does set the tone for a thrilling film. Unfortunately, Van Rooijen does not not deliver.
Perhaps the most glaring sin in the series is the lack of character development on the part of Reed. Though the writers try to build her recovering alcoholism to be an integral part of the story, they provide little intrigue and instead rely on Reed’s bland and isolated personality, leaving viewers bored with a one-dimensional character. Frequent panic attacks and flashbacks overshadow any sort of development in an unoriginal attempt to provide depth to Reed. This unsatisfying theme makes viewers question whether or not a richer character can be found in a used sponge.
This theme of development, or lack thereof, is evident in the plot as well. As common in the horror genre, this film is heavy on the scares and light on the story. Despite the raw opening scene, the movie is quickly down the tubes with no explanation as to why Grace is possessed. Van Rooijen instead turns toward elements of horror clichés to make up for a flat storyline.
Another bizarre aspect of the film is Reed’s relationship with the other characters, most particularly, her ex-boyfriend and cop, Andrew Kurtz (Grey Damon). Though their initial encounter in the beginning of the film is cold and uncomfortable, as the story progresses, writers have seemingly abandoned this script in favor of one geared towards care and love. This leaves viewers questioning their relationship and whether or not writers had any creative ideas beyond the scope of an ABC Family/Freeform drama.
Let’s take a look at the horror tactics. In this take, the morgue is reminiscent of an top-secret government bunker. Bare, cement walls and fluorescent lights create echoing halls that are built simply to increase the eeriness of the story. However, despite the oddities, Van Rooijen uses this to his advantage to create and environment well suited for a horror film. Motion sensor lights and a disturbing silence serve to benefit his purposes and build up the creepy factor, effectively pumping adrenaline through viewers.
Beyond this, the most impressive part of the film is the special effects and realistic corpses. Where many films lack in portraying dead bodies, this one wildly succeeds in. The translucent, marbled skin and dried open gashes amp up the fear factor and fully bring the morgue to life, so to speak.
The jump scares as well, though intense, are ultimately another downfall to the story. Van Rooijen uses them to fill running time rather than to enhance the story. Jump scares are nothing new to even the most inexperienced movie goers but it quickly becomes apparent when they dominate the story. This is a pity because compared to renowned films such as The Conjuring, the use of sound haptics in this one dominates the scene creating astonishingly creepy effects, but the overabundance of such works against them.
The concept for this film is brilliant, to say the least, but the execution is lacking. The potential for a new take on an exorcism brings originality to the screen, however when it came down to it, the story relied on overdone tropes and failed to draw in viewers.

Image Credits
tvn.cl. “Liberan El Primer Terrorífico Trailer De ‘La Posesión De Hannah Grace.’” Tvn.cl, Tvn.cl, 16 Oct. 2018, www.tvn.cl/entretencion/espectaculos/liberan-el-primer-terrorifico-trailer-de-la-posesion-de-hannah-grace-2839471.