Review of “The Possession of Hannah Grace”

Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell) is a former cop who froze when an armed suspect killed her partner. To deal with her grief and guilt, Megan abuses drugs and alcohol, losing her job as a cop and leading to the end of her relationship with fellow cop Andrew Kurtz (Grey Damon). After going to AA, Megan is clean and restarting her life. Her AA sponsor Lisa Roberts (Stana Katic) is a nurse at a hospital. A job opens in the hospital’s morgue for an overnight attendant and Lisa suggests Megan apply for it. Megan gets the job and will be working alone, checking in corpses from both the hospital and those delivered to the morgue by ambulance services. She photographs the body, takes their fingerprints running them through a system to verify their identities, and stores them in cabinets to wait for pickup by a funeral home or be incinerated. A body brought in appears to have been partially burned and has deep cuts to the neck and torso. The corpse’ eyes are open with one brown eye and one very bright blue eye. The camera and fingerprint reader both malfunction when Megan tries to check the body in. The cabinet door where the body is stored keeps popping open. Megan is also having hallucinations she initially believes is related to her stress and recovery; however, that may not be the case. Megan learns the body is Hannah Grace (Kirby Johnson), a young woman that died during an exorcism three months earlier. The body shows no signs of decay and, according to the EMT that brought her in, the wounds on her neck and torso and the burns are all new. A strange man sneaks into the morgue and tries to incinerate the body but is stopped by Megan and a couple of hospital security guards. This corpse is seeing almost as much action after death as it did in life; but there’s still some kick left in the old meat bag and by the end of the night there will be more bodies on ice in the hospital’s basement.

“The Possession of Hannah Grace” is just ok. The trailer for the film is far more intriguing and terrifying than the full movie. With a running time of only 86 minutes, you’ll leave the theater thinking it was much longer. Aside from a couple of scares and a creepy demon-controlled corpse, “The Possession of Hannah Grace” is only slightly better than what gets parodied on “MST3K.”

The first troubling bit about the movie is nitpicky on my part. I’m more than willing to admit that in advance. This hospital in Boston, a major American city, has only one person working overnight intake in its morgue. That makes absolutely no sense. If you have access to the Discovery Life channel, you may have seen a reality show filming the doctors and nurses in a Boston emergency room. The ER was constantly getting new patients with varying complaints (I understand a day or multiple days was compressed into an hour of television) at all hours of the day and night and not everyone survived. That was just one part of the hospital. I am certain more than one person would need to be on duty in the morgue 24 hours a day. Also, this morgue was taking bodies delivered by ambulance services that didn’t come from the hospital. That doesn’t seem right. If a crime victim is found dead the corpse is transported to the city or county morgue, not a local hospital. Again, I know this is me thinking too much about the minor details, but I found it distracting through the whole film.

There is also the clunky nature of how the relationships between the main character and a couple of others is handled. Megan and Andrew’s relationship ended before the movie starts. While we don’t know how long they’ve been broken up, it can’t have been too long as we find out Megan has been sober for about 68 days and her behavior while using led to their split. There is enough passive-aggressiveness on both sides that shows they were never a good couple, despite her substance abuse. Neither comes off as a quality person until the plot demands some selflessness from both of them. Their past relationship and the fallout from it seem like a bit of filler material thrown in to pad a short running time.

The same can be said for Megan and Lisa’s interactions. Lisa is Megan’s AA sponsor and is properly supportive in helping Megan get a job and starting to return to sober society. It’s when things start to get weird that the relationship takes an odd turn. Finding a bottle of pills next to Megan’s purse, Lisa becomes the grand inquisitor, questioning and mildly berating Megan. Megan isn’t using the pills and explains it’s a comfort device, like a former smoker keeping a last cigarette. Her tone immediately shifts from interrogator to disappointed mom and claims to trust her in a way that says, “I don’t trust you.” None of the person-to-person dialog in the film feels natural or would ever happen in real life.

The best part of “The Possession of Hannah Grace” is the creepy corpse that won’t stay still and never blinks; but even that has some confounding weirdness to it. The demon possessing Hannah Grace is supposed to be so powerful it cannot be exorcised, but it apparently can only do one trick: Making people levitate. Everyone we see it kill during the film dies in roughly the same way. The demon raises the victim off the ground then they are moved back and forth, up and down, until they are either impaled on something or they are taken off screen to die. There are a few exceptions, but the M.O. is pretty much the same. As demons go, this one is pretty dull. There are plenty of sharp implements in the morgue that could have flown up from their trays and drawers and been used to stab victims to death. One assumes a demon has some power over fire and can spontaneously generate it, or pull it from a source like the incinerator, and burn some people alive. While we do see a victim’s neck broken telekinetically, this demon is apparently on the lower end of the power ratings in Hell.

“The Possession of Hannah Grace” is rated R for gruesome images and terror throughout. Terror might be a strong term to use for what happens in the film. If you’ve been in an underground bunker for the last 50 years then yes, it might be terrifying. A priest is shown impaled through the head. Hannah’s corpse is shown partially burned with deep lacerations on the neck and the torso. Despite the rating, I don’t recall any foul language.

There was an interesting story thread that, like most of the script, was left hanging with no resolution or suggestion of a continuation. The demon seems to spare Megan. She could have been one of the earliest victims, but she survives. There’s one scene where it even seems to caress Megan. That dangling plot point could have been explored in a much better movie. We’ll probably never know if there’s some reason why Megan was spared as the film is doing only so-so box office and a sequel is very unlikely. That fine, as “The Possession of Hannah Grace” isn’t a story I need to see continue.

“The Possession of Hannah Grace” gets two stars out of five.

There are no new movies coming out in wide release this week. I may see some current art house releases like Melissa McCarthy in “Can You Ever Forgive Me,” or the Swedish sci-fi/thriller “Border.” Perhaps I’ll check out some of the wide releases I haven’t seen like “Creed II” or “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.” The world is my oyster and I’m going to slurp it up…then immediately regret the decision.

Listen to The Fractured Frame for movie, TV and streaming news. It’s available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

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