Sony Screen Gems’ The Possession of Hannah Grace attempts to breathe life into the tired exorcism/possession subgenre, but ultimately ends up being as stiff as a corpse.
Diederik Van Rooijen directs this R-rated horror film in which a woman (played by Shay Mitchell) takes the graveyard shift in a city hospital morgue. Working alone in the basement of the hospital, she checks in newly deceased bodies, one of which is Hanna Grace, a young girl that has been grossly mutilated. As the audience learns in the opening of the film, she was possessed and eventually murdered by her father. In a new spin, the story takes place after the exorcism and death of the title character.
The problem with The Possession of Hannah Grace isn’t the concept, but the execution by Van Rooijen, who opens the film with one of the most clumsy exorcisms ever filmed. From offensively unintelligible camerawork to the endurance-testing decision to hang on scenes for too long, the film is edited like an unidentifiable corpse that’s been stitched back together and presented open casket to a mortified crowd at a wake. The film’s technical problems don’t stop there as it’s plagued by muddy cinematography, stage-y set design, and straight up embarrassing CGI in the finale.
The only bright spot is Shay Mitchell’s performance and the interesting centerpiece of the corpse, which eventually ends up waltzing around the morgue like a cartoon character for the majority of the film. We get way too much of Hanna Grace, who is anything but scary as she uses her demon powers to lift people in the air and slowly crush/break their bones. During these scenes, Van Rooijen shakes the camera so violently that it’s a distraction from anything cool actually happening. (It’s so bad that I wonder how nobody looked at the dailies and forced him to reshoot this stuff.)
While the story presents a new take on old concepts, too much information is shared in the opening sequence, which makes the film void of any actual mystery or suspense. This film was dead on arrival. If anything, The Possession of Hannah Grace does one thing right – it doesn’t end with a fucking wink at a sequel.