As per my usual recap-type reviews, SPOILERS AHEAD. Consider yourself warned.
It’s Christmas time and time for – a horror movie? Sure, why not? To me, any time is a good time for a horror flick. The trailer for The Possession of Hannah Grace looked intriguing when I saw it a few months back, so I was all psyched to be scared outta my wits with some good ol’ demonic possession action. Unfortunately, that’s not what I got – what I got is a flick that can’t decide what story it’s really telling.
After an abbreviated prologue showing Hannah Grace’s (Kirby Johnson) failed – and cliché – exorcism and death at the hands of her father (Louis Herthum), the story goes forward three months and focuses on an ex-cop and recovering addict named Megan (Shay Mitchell). She’s trying to get her life back on track after the fatal shooting of her partner (and her own guilt at freezing up) causes her to quit the force. With the help of her sponsor (Stana Katic), Megan gets a job as an overnight morgue attendant – because that’s definitely the kind of job that somebody with PTSD, anxiety and substance abuse problems should have, right? Working nights all alone in a hospital (that looks way more like a bomb shelter, by the way) with a bunch of dead bodies – yeah, sounds perfect.
So after we go through a night of Megan getting used to the job and meeting her fellow night shift misfits like dorky-but-sweet security guard Dave (Max McNamara), and dorky-but-sweet ambulance driver Randy (Nick Thune), guess whose body comes in to the hospital? Yep, it’s Hannah Grace, who’s about as nasty-looking a corpse as one could imagine. And of course, as soon as she arrives, everything starts going wrong for Megan. She can’t take the required photos or scan Hannah’s fingerprints because the equipment mysteriously breaks down. She can’t even seem to keep the door closed to Hannah’s refrigerator drawer – it just keeps popping open. Between that and Megan opening the door and uncovering the body every two minutes, it’s a wonder Hannah’s body didn’t puff up like a balloon.
Oh, but, silly me, Hannah’s not really dead – or so says her dad when he shows up at the morgue banging on the door like a crazy person, demanding that Megan let him in. She doesn’t, of course – but it doesn’t matter, because he somehow manages to get in anyway (despite the place being locked down like a prison) and take Hannah’s body to the incinerator. Megan stops him and as the security guys haul him away, he rants and raves about needing to burn the body.
Time check? Oh, about a half-hour in at this point, so it’s about time to start killing off minor characters. After Megan leaves to call her ex-boyfriend and cop Andrew (Grey Damon) to ask him to run Hannah’s fingerprints – poor sweetie security guard Dave becomes the next victim, making the classic horror movie mistake of investigating the strange noises coming from the refrigerated drawers. He opens the door to Hannah’s and gets offed the same way Hannah offed the priest who tried exorcising her.
When Megan returns from her character development moment with Andrew, swearing that she didn’t steal his bottle of Xanax (even though she did), she comes back down just in time to enjoy some more hijinks with Hannah – who for some reason, doesn’t seem terribly interested in killing Megan. Nope, apparently Hannah just wants to mess around with her by doing stuff like following her into the bathroom and then teleporting right back to her refrigerated drawer – making poor Megan think she’s going crazy, and pushing her to dip into that Xanax.
And of course, with every minor character she kills, Hannah’s body restores itself until she’s finally fully ambulatory and as nimble as Spiderman, walking on walls and ceilings. Hannah’s dad somehow manages to bust out of police custody and show up at the morgue again — and he and a now-convinced Megan haul Hannah’s body to the incinerator. But Hannah ain’t having that and she tosses poor ol’ Dad into the fire box instead.
And of course, just as Hannah finally decides she’s bored with Megan too and is about to toss her in, cop boyfriend Andrew shows up to save the day. Hannah tries making a living crucifix out of him – but it’s then that Megan finally finds the courage she didn’t have before and she empties a full magazine on Hannah. She tosses dead-again Hannah into the giant smoker and boom. Demon destroyed. Megan’s found the strength she needs to stay on the road to recovery and life’s good again. The end.
I think I would have liked this flick a lot more had I not already seen The Autopsy of Jane Doe, a flick with a similar (and just as goofy) premise – only it was done way, way better. Even though it boasts top-notch leads in Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch, and develops their characters well, the story keeps its focus on unraveling the mystery of Jane Doe. She remains the main character even though she’s a cadaver. The creep factor and the scares build to a satisfying (albeit ridiculous) ending – unlike Hannah Grace, whose story takes a backseat to Megan’s issues. While Shay Mitchell does a fine job in making Megan interesting and sympathetic, in focusing so much on her, the flick becomes way more drama than horror. It loses its edge and its ability to scare – which renders the flick lame and ultimately forgettable.
Directed by: Diederik Van Roojien
Written by: Brian Sieve
Release Date: Nov. 30, 2018
Run Time: 86 min
Distributor: Sony/Screen Gems