The Possession of Hannah Grace squanders both a decent premise and a solid protagonist on a dull litany of horror movie staples.
The Possession of Hannah Grace begins how most movies of this type end: With an exorcism. You can picture the scene. The ill-fated title character (Kirby Johnson) is strapped to a bed while grim-looking priests slather her in holy water. She awkwardly contorts as the assembled onlookers begin to float. There are chants and pleas and then eventually her merciful father (Louis Herthum) suffocates her with a pillow.
The tagline of The Possession of Hannah Grace is “death is only the beginning”, so I suppose it makes sense that we skip forwards three months to find Hannah’s horribly mutilated corpse arriving at the morgue where the film’s protagonist, Megan (Shay Mitchell), has just started the night shift. Megan’s an ex-cop with the usual demons in her past; murky shootings, substance abuse, the whole nine. Do I necessarily buy Shay Mitchell with this kind of chequered history? That’s beside the point. It’s refreshing enough for a pretty woman to be toting the baggage and not a beardy dude.
But that’s part of the problem. With this premise and protagonist you could probably make a half-decent horror movie, but The Possession of Hannah Grace is only interested in being a derivative one. As it gradually becomes clear that Hannah isn’t quite as dead as she appears, the film devolves into a rote checklist of genre staples, from the creepy crawling chick with the snap-crackle-pop joints to the heroine wondering if her addled brain is playing tricks on her.
Occasionally director Diederik Van Rooijen dreams up a decent trick or two; the lights in the morgue are motion-sensitive, and some of the frantic chases and hauntings make use of that. There’s also a security guard who looks like a clean-shaven Bob Ross, but that’ll probably only appeal to me. Beyond that, though, The Possession of Hannah Grace is so slavishly devoted to formula that you can virtually predict each plot turn and jump scare several minutes before they arrive. Hannah’s bony cadaver is apparently bound by the same nebulous rules as the doll from Annabelle; whenever she’s around weird supernatural s**t happens, but there’s never any logic or consistency to exactly which variety crops up.
Thankfully The Possession of Hannah Grace clocks in at just less than ninety minutes, so at least you don’t have to endure it for long. The out-of-nowhere ending suggests that the creative team were sick of it, too; one minute it’s there, the next it’s gone. Good riddance. Hopefully there’s no life after death for the movie.