The Jakarta Post
The Possession of Hannah Grace tries to scare through vivid visuals and stunning sound design but is empty otherwise. Even the cadavers have more life in them.
The movie opens with a possessed Hannah Grace (Kirby Johnson) tied to her bed while two priests perform a failed exorcism on her. The scene ends with Hannah’s grieving father suffocating her to death with a pillow. Then, the viewers are introduced to main protagonist Megan (Shay Mitchell), an ex-alcoholic ex-cop who blames herself for her partner’s death three months after Hannah Grace died.
Challenging herself, Megan starts a career of taking in fresh cadavers at the Boston Metro Hospital morgue, much to the concern of her ex-boyfriend Andrew (Grey Damon). There she works alongside a nurse, Lisa (Stana Katic), and security guards Ernie (Jacob Ming-Trent) and Dave (Max McNamara). The latter welcomes her warmly to the graveyard shift. She also finds a friend in Randy (Nick Thune), a cadaver delivery man who also has an alcoholic past.
The terror starts with the arrival of the severely maimed corpse of a young girl with a startlingly open sapphire eye. An intruder manages to sneak into the morgue and attempt to burn the corpse, claiming that the girl is alive. As the night progresses, Megan notices oddities about the corpse, such as its inability to stay in its drawer and disappearing slashes and burn marks. She soon discovers that the corpse is three months old and hosting a murderous demon.
This is director Driederik van Rooijen's Hollywood horror debut, but he seems to be adept at utilizing sound engineering. The first half of the movie is kept tense by the lack of background music. When the actions start to pick up, he plays with audiences’ ears by jumping between suffocating silence and blaring demonic sounds. The constant alternations elevate the lackluster jump scares, which happen quite a lot in the movie.
Another remarkable point is the eerily graphic visuals. The cadavers are so realistic-looking with deathly pale skin and dark blue veins. Hannah Grace’s corpse is certainly the most horrifying. It is contorted to a fetal-like position with two huge gashing slashes, one on the right hip and one on the neck. The left half of it is burnt to black, and the intricate details of the burn mark are emphasized when the corpse starts healing itself. The murder scenes also blatantly show blood splatters and twisted bodies, especially in the opening exorcism scene.
Unfortunately, screenwriter Brian Sieve clutters the movie’s fresh premise with numerous horror clichés. Hannah herself does not make a particularly memorable monster. She’s a contorted cadaver spider walking around the morgue killing people with telekinesis, basically a compilation of other movies’ ghouls with a boring design. With a flux of horror movies starring monsters released this year alone, Hannah Grace is barely iconic to stand beside The Nun’s Valak or even the shark from The Meg.
Mitchell delivers a solid performance as the heroine with a strong physique but frail emotions. Her calm demeanor while handling corpses, especially Hannah’s, is truly unsettling. Johnson is a talented physical performer as Hannah Grace, but she has almost no dialogue. The overall material does not give the other cast members much to showcase, thus inhibiting them from any character development. The Possession of Hannah Grace looks and sounds beautiful but kills its promising premise with horror clichés and too many jump scares. (iru/wng)