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Movie Review: “The Possession of Hannah Grace”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 11/30/2018

Theatrical Release: 11/30/2018

Synopsis

Hannah Grace (Kirby Johnson) was a young woman who has been possessed. Her father cares for her deeply, but she was killed after an attempted exorcism went horribly wrong. While Hannah Grace is dead, her father believes that the body is still possessed, and that it is still extremely dangerous. Her body is on the way to a morgue to be examined and processed, but her father believes that the body must immediately be destroyed, or more people will inevitably be harmed.

Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell) is trying to recover from a trauma she experienced during her time on the police force. She has had a problem with drug addiction and she hopes that getting a job will help get her mind off of everything. Her sponsor works at a hospital and suggested that Megan should work the night shift there, as a job has opened up in the morgue. Megan takes the job where her responsibility is to take pictures and record data on the bodies that are brought in to the morgue during the night. The new job has Megan working alone, and the isolation was what she liked about the job, but the arrival of Hannah Grace’s body brings occurrences that Megan cannot explain. However, by the time she realizes she is in great danger, it could be too late.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Shay Mitchell (+6pts)

The Lights & Scares (-5pts)

Hannah Grace (+5pts)

The Premise (-4pts)

Megan & Hannah (+3pts)

The Supporting Cast (-4pts)

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Pro: Shay Mitchell (+6pts)

There was not a whole lot happening in this movie, but Shay Mitchell did a great job at capturing my interest. Her character was alone in the morgue, and while there were a handful of other characters—hospital staff members working in other areas—that kept popping up throughout this story, Shay Mitchell got a whole lot of screen time to herself. A lot of screen time consisted of Shay Mitchell acting alongside a dead body, and while you might think that could get boring, I never thought it was. This was mostly due to Shay Mitchell’s performance. Her reactions to things was relatable, she had the screen presence that kept slow scenes interesting, and her performance made her character relatable. It was not a ground-breaking performance that could make a bad movie great, but her performance was believable and kept me engaged, and you cannot ask for a whole lot more than that from a movie like this one.

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Con: The Lights & Scares (-5pts)

The lights in the morgue were mostly operated by motion. In other words, they would turn on when motion was detected and would turn off when motion had not been detected for awhile. Now, motion activated lights are certainly not a new invention, but it was obvious the filmmakers would use this as a cheap attempt at a jump scare, and I was worried they would go back to that well more than once. I was right. Megan spent a lot of time in this movie trying to get lights to turn on—often times even jumping around and waving her hands in the air, taking some of the suspense out of the scene—and the filmmakers predictably used the concept for a couple of attempted jump scares. The whole light thing was ridiculous, and the predictability of using these for scary moments made those moments have little effect. Unfortunately, the rest of the scares in this movie were not much better.

This was a movie filled with almosts. Megan was wandering around the empty halls of this morgue, and Hanna Grace was frequently haunting her. Megan saw and heard things that freaked her out, but they rarely had any pay-off. The movie had a lot of moments that built suspense, only for the danger to disappear without any real climax. With each imminent scare, I kept thinking that the movie would finally get rolling, but the filmmakers kept releasing the tension without capitalizing on it. It just felt like the filmmakers did not follow through with any of the scares. They just repeatedly built suspense, only to let all of the steam out of the situations before they even had the chance to be effective.

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Pro: Hannah Grace (+5pts)

The movie started with Hannah Grace's exorcism. From there, viewers will know that the body was still possessed—because it would not be a horror movie otherwise—but Megan did not know this. Just by lying still, Hannah Grace was an effective antagonist, because we the audience knew something would happen and the anticipation of something happening added a lot of tension. As effective an antagonist as she was when she was while not moving, she was also very powerful when she was on the move.

I do not want to give anything away, so I am going to be pretty vague here. That being said, I liked how powerful the filmmakers made Hannah Grace. The character was capable of a lot, and if a character got caught in her path, they were in serious trouble—except the main character. The filmmakers, using effective visuals and even more effective sound effects, created a really good sense of Hannah Grace’s power. She was an antagonist that dialed up the anxiety when she was playing opossum, but she felt very dangerous when she was not.

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Con: The Premise (-4pts)

I thought the filmmakers did a pretty lousy job of setting up the premise. Now, full disclosure, I have not spent much time working night shifts at morgues, but the idea of someone working by themselves in this position felt a bit ridiculous. More than that, Megan just started this job, so I find it hard to believe that anyone would put her on a shift by herself in a role like this so quickly. I know, I am picking apart the believability of an exorcism movie, but the logic of this premise—or lack thereof—was hard to ignore.

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Pro: Megan & Hannah (+3pts)

You know how a lot of horror movies show side characters getting slaughtered, but the main character conveniently gets away from the monster throughout the story? This obviously only happens because they are the main character, but the problem with this is that it sometimes feels like lazy writing. This movie was different. Hannah Grace was haunting Megan, but she did not want to kill her. The reason for this was never outright explained, but it was obvious that Hannah Grace did have a reason.

I loved that the filmmakers never tried to explain Hannah’s motivations. It is a complaint I have with too many movies, where the filmmakers try to explain the monster and why they are the way that they are. It takes the mystery out of the monster, it makes them feel predictable, and it usually diminishes the intensity that the monster can bring. While Hannah’s goal can be assumed, the lack of certain keeps the shroud a mystery over the character, and because we did not know her intentions we never really knew if Megan was safe, so it kept things feeling intense.

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Con: The Supporting Cast (-4pts)

The supporting cast ended up being little more than a bunch of nameless, faceless bodies for Hannah to kill. One of the security guards was a minor comedic relief, but none of the side characters were very memorable and audiences will not care about any of them. The problem with this was that when Hannah killed any of them, it felt more like an action movie than a horror movie. In other words: it made the horror feel kind of bland.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

movie-review-the-possession-of-hannah-grace

Grade: C+ (76pts)

The Possession of Hannah Grace was a very typical horror movie. I did not think it was bad, but there were things about it that definitely disappointed me. The concept of motion lighting was something that plagued this movie. It either came across as silly, or as a lazy attempt at a jump scare. The filmmakers clearly thought this would make for some startling horror moments, but it never achieved the desired effect. Then there were the almost scares. The movie repeatedly built suspense only to deliver an anti-climactic "scare"—it was like watching a bowler hold the ball, become the ball, have a stare-down with the lane, do an extravagant wind up, run to the line, then stop suddenly, and bowl the ball from between their legs.

I was disappointed by the horror, but the movie was not all bad. Shay Mitchell was the movie's biggest strength, as she carried the movie by being both relatable and believable, which is exactly what you need from a horror movie protagonist. Then there was Hannah Grace who was an intense, powerful antagonist and I loved that the filmmakers clearly gave her a goal, but did not bother explained it, as doing so would have diminished the mystery and unpredictability surrounding the character. I will not lie, it was a far from great movie, but it kept me moderately entertained while I was watching it.

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