There’s something about demonic possession horror movies or what have you that yields some of the most generic titles. Just searing “The Possession of” on Wikipedia not only gave me The Possession of Hannah Grace, but The Possession of Michael King, The Possession of Joel Delaney, and even plain, old The Possession. Hell, it even gave me The Haunting of Molly Hartley. Point is, I don’t know why these movies continue to insert some arbitrary name after “The Something of” and expect it to resonate with potential viewers. It’s only going to get forgotten as soon as it comes out, unless it’s somehow amazing, which, unsurprisingly, Hannah Grace is not. Haunted house tropes are so trite that they’ve tried to switch it up once and a while, with movies like Insidious instead making the kid haunted, and this one tries to take that concept a step further by making a corpse haunted. While that may tickle the curiosities of horror buffs, let me tell you it does not capitalize on any ostensible creative ingenuity whatsoever. Sure, setting it in a morgue sets up a flurry of creepy establishing shots, but when it comes time to give you the real spooks, Hannah Grace couldn’t be more uninspired and impotent. And the movie will tell you it’s more of about the central character at play, but swap her out with any other trauma-inflicted horror movie protagonist and it all rings the same. While The Possession of Hannah Grace may have taken brief advantage of the box office lull between Thanksgiving and Christmas – at least enough to justify its budget – it doesn’t deserve to have a very long shelf life, and I’d be surprised if horror aficionados clung to this one all that much in the years to come.
The Possession of Hannah Grace introduces us to ex-cop Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell), who quit the force after she was unable to prevent the murder of her partner. Racked with guilt and post-traumatic stress, Megan finds a job working the graveyard shift at a morgue, in the hopes that her hours will largely grant her solitude. One night, she is delivered the half-charred body of a young girl by the name of Hannah Grace (Kirby Johnson), who allegedly died during an exorcism. Unperturbed, Megan goes about her duties as usual, until strange occurrences begin to rattle her. Initially led to believe that her suspicions are stemmed from her fragmenting psyche, Megan will have to brace herself with the fact that the danger might be real, and that she’s the only one in the position to do anything about it.
Yeah, pretty humdrum plot. Protagonist goes through some traumatic experience prior to the plot, and thus through the plot finds away not only to stop the evil, but heal herself along the way. And the movie will argue that it’s all about the characterizations, that character choices propel the plot, but it remains so painfully obvious that those characters are used solely as a means to an end. The screenplay will introduce a handful of supporting players and pretend that they matter, but they only exist to get the narrative from Point A to Point B, the movie only confirming this when they are dispatched for no other reason than the fact that they serve no more purpose. If there’s one minor saving grace for Hannah Grace, it’s in director Diederik Van Rooijen, who takes full advantage of the space he’s given by delivering some eerie establishing shots. That said, where the movie fails to come through is in the scare department, as they’re poorly edited and virtually tacked on as an afterthought. If you’re someone who can forgive a derivative script if it means getting a few good jumps scares in, I have some bad news for you. Honestly, I can’t really recommend The Possession of Hannah Grace for anyone, as I can’t imagine anyone getting anything out of it, save for seeing Pretty Little Liars star Shay Mitchell in an actual movie. What I can recommend is for people to track down a far superior horror movie of the same ilk called The Autopsy of Jane Doe, which stars the severely underrated Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox. There, you actually get compelling characters who actively uncover the mystery of their cadaver through postmortem investigation. Plus, it’s way scarier.
Final Score: 2/10