'The Possession of Hannah Grace' movie review

'The Possession of Hannah Grace' movie review

Possession of Hannah Grace

English (A)

Director: Diederik Van Rooijen

Cast: Shay Mitchell, Grey Damon, Stana Katic, Kirby Johnson

Rating: 3.5/5

Megan Reed is an ex-cop and recovering addict. On her first night as the intake assistant at Boston Metro Hospital’s morgue, a body belonging to a young woman named Hannah Grace is delivered into her care. As Reed attempts to fingerprint and photograph the cadaver, she discovers that all is not well; the lab’s camera refuses to photograph the body, the computer shuts down when she attempts to scan the fingerprints, the corpse — slashed and burned by a man desperately trying to obliterate it — seems to be healing.

For a film titled The Possession of Hannah Grace, it is not very concerned with Hannah Grace herself. We know that she survives an unsuccessful exorcism, but that is all we know. She is given no history, and we are given no opportunity to grow invested in her. Although a palpable sinisterism tiptoes through the film from start to finish, its source is not Hannah Grace — something certainly lurks, but it doesn’t have a name.

The disclaimer at the beginning of the film is similarly, sinisterly ambiguous. It is always unnerving to read that a work of horror is based on true events — who knew it is far worse to read that it is a work of fiction ‘not intended to promote superstitions or cause irrational fear’?

In much of the film, Reed is alone. She works at the computer, checks on the body, sits in a corridor bouncing a rubber ball against a wall. When she is visited by colleagues or her cop ex-boyfriend, the conversations come across as abrupt and ill-fitted, even unnecessary to the film.

A different story — composed of the sound of footsteps, the flickering of the lab’s unreliable lights, the spontaneous life of the washroom’s hand-dryer — is far louder than any attempt by the characters to make sense of what is transpiring. As these pointers appear more frequently in the film, what is most terrifying is that they do not point to anything.

The Possession of Hannah Grace has not been well-received since its release — perhaps unfairly so. There is certainly something to be said of a horror film that can carry itself without a backstory; that can sustain a suspense without ever wasting it; that can suggest, ever so quietly, that we have inherited horrors we have yet to create appropriate demons for.