It feels weird to be smack dab in the middle of awards season screeners only to take a couple hours out of my busy schedule to plop myself down in the movie theater to catch what is most assuredly not an awards season contender in the form of The Possession of Hannah Grace, an indie horror film that aims low but still manages to miss its mark.
Destined to be quickly forgotten, The Possession of Hannah Grace centers around Megan (Shay Mitchell), whose aspirations for a career in law enforcement implode and leave her working the graveyard shift at a bunker-like hospital morgue that looks like it ought to be awfully creepy but never really becomes creepy. It's not the greatest gig, but it keeps her close to her AA sponsor Lisa (Stana Katic), a nurse at the hospital. All is well until the body of a young girl arrives at the morgue, the apparent victim of an exorcism gone wildly awry whose arrival is accompanied by, of course, increased strange occurrences including the incredibly strange arrival of a dangerous homeless man who prophesies, if you will, that this young dead girl may not be quite as dead as it appears.
To be sure, the whole "exorcism gone awry" set-up isn't exactly unfamiliar in the indie horror world but those hoping for anything close to 2017's sleeper hit The Autopsy of Jane Doe will likely find themselves more than a little disappointed.
The Possession of Hannah Grace is a barely watchable film, both because of its derivative storyline and because of Dutch director Diederik Van Rooijen's seemingly intentional design that gives the film a dreary look and then makes it almost impossible to see for much of the film's 85-minute running time.
It's an intriguing and not entirely unheard of idea to have pretty much the entire facility's lighting operate on motion sensors, the occasionally clickety clack flickers of light providing a stark shadow amidst the film's otherwise gray and dark morgue, lobby, hallways and other areas. Unfortunately, the idea never really comes to life because the film is muddier than M. Night's The Last Airbender.
And yeah, that's seriously dark.
In addition to opening with passes as your stereotypical movie exorcism, The Possession of Hannah Grace struggles to maintain any tonal consistencies or make anything resembling an original statement. We never really get to know Kirby Johnson's Hannah Grace and her actions never quite make sense even in a genre of filmmaking where the standard for making sense is fairly low.
The Possession of Hannah Grace, while not quite an abysmal film, is the worst kind of horror film - a boring and bland one lacking in anything resembling suspense or horror or meaning or character or pretty much anything.
The only film opening in wide release this weekend, and only opening in just over 2,000 theaters, The Possession of Hannah Grace isn't likely to do much for true horror fans. While the film's dour environment seems to promise something special, The Possession of Hannah Grace never delivers beyond a few stale jokes and scares that won't scare anyone beyond the horror newbie who doesn't quite realize that we've seen this story many times before and pretty much all of them have been more satisfying.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic