Since the 1973 release of The Exorcist, the horror industry has made it a priority to pump out a not-so-subtle clone once a year. We have since dealt with films such as Stigmata and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Going into The Possession of Hannah Grace, I figured it wouldn’t be much different than any other post-Exorcist supernatural flick. To an extent, I was right. We have a possessed girl and spooky things happening wherever she goes. There’s earthquakes inside rooms, people floating against their will, and the occasional Bible reference amidst a dark atmosphere. That said, the film does have a few perks that keep it from being terrible – and all kudos is due to the filmmakers for not slapping the “Based on a True Story” tag to this one.
The Possession of Hannah Grace opens with a botched exorcism of the title character. Three months later, ex-cop Megan Reed (played by Shay Mitchell) starts her first night on the job as an overnight intake assistant at the Boston Metro Hospital. A few corpses into the night, she receives a partially burned and slashed body of a young lady identified as Hannah Grace. Soon afterward, lights begin flickering, technology begins to short out, and people start disappearing all around Megan. As the body count rises, Megan learns that the body of Hannah Grace is possessed by a powerful demon which performs evil acts for the sake of , well,evil.
Right off, the performances in this film are pretty good. Shay Mitchell does a great job with the troubled Megan Reed, an ex-cop whose previous actions led to the death of a colleague. Mitchell’s character is well developed, and I have no problems with her performance whatsoever. Most of the performers are pretty spot-on with their deliveries, and though she has a limited presence on-screen, Kirby Johnson does a pretty solid job with her portrayal as Hannah Grace. Her character is silent through most of the film, but her nonverbal expressions and physical actions (the actress is a dancer by profession) lead to a pretty well-rounded performance.
Unfortunately, the cons outweigh the pros in this one. Hannah Grace is a dark film. So dark that we can’t see a damn thing for most of the movie. I know what they were going for here: darkness. Fine, but even in moments where with sunlight or fluorescent lighting, shadowing effects obscure the characters and much of the action driving the scene. Here or there, there’s a fight scene or an encounter with Hannah Grace, and each shot is so pitch-black, the audience has no idea what is going on. The sounds of bodies being broken and torn apart helps, but without much to look at, each scene takes a hit.
Probably the biggest issue with this film is the pacing. It starts well and slowly rises in the middle. However, the remainder of the movie feels like a patchwork of scenes slapped together at the last minute. For instance, not even a second after Megan Reed learns that Hannah Grace’s corpse must be burned in order to destroy the demon, there is a shot of the body getting pushed into a furnace. No build-up, no moral dilemmas. Just the snap of a finger and we’ve gone from A to Z — and this happens multiple times towards the end of the film. Said patchwork leads me to believe that this film was thrown together in haste. Maybe there was more they wanted to do and studio constraints got in the way, but the final product suffers as a result.
The Possession of Hannah Grace is not the most detestable exorcism-related film out there. It's not even the worst, but more work was needed to make this film "good." What's done is done, and we're stuck with what we got.