I am an individual who maintains low expectations when walking into what is billed as a scary movie. I also take in popcorn because one never knows if you’re about to have the time of life. Maddeningly in the case of today’s film, it turned out to be the former. And it was for a complete lack of trying.

The Possession of Hannah Grace is Dutch Director Diederik Van Rooijen’s English-language debut, and it written by Brian Sieve of the Boogeyman sequels. The film opens with Grace tied to a bed and cackling. After murdering one priest and on the verge of killing another, Hannah’s father (Louis Herthum) takes matters into his own hands and suffocates his daughter, supposedly killing the demon inside her too. Cut to Megan Reed, played by Shay Mitchell, a former cop who decides to take up the graveyard shift at the city morgue.

Megan is a recovering alcoholic following the death of her partner on the job, and who is aided by her sponsor Lisa (Stana Katic) and her ex-boyfriend Andrew (Grey Damon) Working one night, Megan takes in Hannah Grace’s body for processing, which now sports extensive burn injuries and slashes. From then on, it is the longest night of Megan’s life, as her friends start to disappear, she starts to see things that aren’t there, a mysterious figure lurks in the shadows of the morgue, and it seems the corpse in question refuses to stay in the refrigerator.

The horror genre as a whole is one whose lucrativeness resides on both sides of the quality spectrum. It is a type of movie that is easy to screw up, but still achieve success in the eyes of its audience and its box office. There are countless bad horror movies that I would recommend for viewing, but not many that uphold a level of quality in regard to its production, storytelling or content. The Possession of Hannah Grace sits in a purgatory-like place where it narrowly succeeds in that first regard, but then completely flies past the other two without even a glance in their direction.

This is a very boring movie. Brian Sieve does not contribute any original ideas to the depiction of demon possession. Forget whether the approach was to either make the possession as serious as possible to the point of fear inducement, or so far-fetched that the audience are rolling around laughing at the spectacle. Neither is the result, not even as a backfired execution. The story is predictable, and you can see what lies behind every corner. Megan Reed is stuck in a small space with a re-animated cadaver. Besides the obvious idiocy of not leaving the moment that things start to play up, she does not make any stupid decisions.

At the same time, she’s giving us very little reason to care for her and her friends’ wellbeing. It is a nasty juxtaposition that results in a very bland lead character. She seems like a nice person who is just going through a rough patch, but other than that I know nothing about her. This wouldn’t be a problem if there was a spectacle for me to rather focus on, but so standard is the setup and scares that I am left feeling empty as an audience member.

The thing is that while this possession is as standard as you can possibly get, the movie is not technically inept. Diederik Van Rooijen knows how to shoot a horror film. This was the first feature film to be shot on a full-frame mirrorless camera and while I would not be able to tell you the difference that this makes, the movie still looks good. Adequate cinematography works to create a legitimate atmosphere. This is aided by good sound editing. Little music is used and most of the time we are left in silence as Megan moves through the morgue.

The most absurd morgue in terms of its architecture, but still fitting for demonic storytelling. The visual effects are fine, as is the acting. Everyone is delivering on what is being asked of them. Hannah Grace actress Kirby Johnson is even showcasing some impressive choreography in her demonic movement. The problem is that that amounts to nothing. We cannot engage in an environment that is competently established when it makes no effort to engage with us. The plot is that formulaic and forgettable.

In all honesty, the only interesting part of the Possession of Hannah Grace comes from the analysis of its subtext. In several scenes and its conclusion, the movie implies that demon possession comes as a result of suffering from anxiety and depression. This is supposedly how Hannah succumbed to her invading entity and what threatens Megan should she let her former addictions and traumas get the better of her. This is a unique implication, but it is mismanaged by the plot by not giving it the focus that it requires. This is especially clear in the conclusion, which makes it feel like it served as but a means for the story to have a cohesive ending. It does not. It is weak and unfulfilling.

That last word is the best way to describe The Possession of Hannah Grace. It is an unfulfilling cinematic experience. It is a film that appliance stores will use to showcase the picture quality of their TVs. Harsh words those may be, but it flies in the face of a paying audience. Especially those who go into a movie sporting the word ‘possession’ and that is as lifeless as the corpse that features in it.

Last Updated: January 28, 2019

The Possession of Hannah Grace
The Possession of Hannah Grace is a film without an identity nor a reason for you to watch it. It is a well-crafted series of events that amount to nothing, despite the competency that can be seen on screen.

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