Movie: The Possession of Hannah Grace (2018)

2018’s The Possession of Hannah Grace starts out with several strikes against it.  First, it is yet another exorcism movie.  I don’t know why I am so committed to seeing every movie of that horror sub-genre, as every one of them except The Exorcist is varying degrees of crap.  Secondly, it was distributed by Screen Gems, which may be the most inaccurately named company ever.

On the other hand, they did go for an R for this, and I can respect that.  There is little worse than a PG-13 exorcism movie.

The beginning of a pre-credits sequence does not bode well.  Teenage girl tied to a bed with one priest dousing her in holy water while another shouts Latin.  If there is one constant of these films I will never understand, it is why Latin is supposed to be more powerful than any other language.  I guess this is some knock against the reforms established by Vatican II.  I wasn’t raised Catholic, so I don’t get it.

Anywho, the girl is filthy, contorts a lot and has eyes that can change color.  My attention was already waning when her father suddenly suffocates her with a pillow.  Holy shit!  That may be the first time I have seen that happen in a movie.  Somehow it seems even colder that it is a decorative throw pillow with a Bible verse on it.  Alas, the quote is not, “Jesus said, Suffer little children”.

When we get to the movie proper, we are introduced to Shay Mitchell, a recovering addict and former police officer.  I wasn’t certain she was fired from, or if she quit, the force.  Regardless, her fall began with her failure to prevent somebody at a traffic stop from fatally shooting her partner. 

Seemingly as punishment for herself, she takes a job as the sole overnight morgue attendant at a hospital in downtown Boston.  Her responsibilities are to photograph and fingerprint scan new arrivals, and then wheel them into the cold locker.  We’re also told there is a crematorium, though I can’t imagine any reason (well, any normal reason) she would use that.

I am way too fond of using the “Chekhov’s gun” bit in these pieces, and I’m about to go crazy with it here.  For the unfamiliar, this is Anton Chekhov’s rule that, if a gun appears in the first act, it will be fired in the third.  So, here you have Chekhov’s crematorium.  You also have Chekhov’s security system, as you can’t get in or out of the area without a key card.  In the morgue, all of the lighting is controlled by motion sensors, so we have Chekhov’s lighting.  There’s even Chekhov’s hand dryer in the bathroom.

This is one weird hospital.  The exterior looks like any earlier 20th century multistory building, but the interior looks like some evil corporation’s Brutalist headquarters built in the 1970’s and since abandoned.  This building seems far larger on the inside than the outside, which I guess makes it a Tardis hospital.  The morgue, in particular, seems to be ridiculously large for its purpose.  To justify a morgue of this size, wouldn’t there be more people working the graveyard shift?

It seems every aspect of the morgue and Mitchell’s job are senseless, and can only serve to be the setup for horror movie mayhem.  She’s not allowed to leave the area for any reason.  There are only two overnight security guards for the entire hospital, and they are stationed at the front desk at the far end of this behemoth structure.  This seems especially ridiculous, as the area where ambulances drop off corpses for her is apparently as far from them as possible, even this part of the hospital is where somebody would be most likely to trespass.

I set aside all of these concerns for roughly the first hour of the film.  Instead of picking it apart, I appreciated how slow and quiet the movie was during that time.  It is no surprise the corpse of the girl from the pre-credit exorcism will show up.  We also expect the hospital’s equipment to malfunction when trying to photograph and fingerprint ID the body.  And will there be a creepy guy trying to get into the morgue from that ambulance entrance?

The wheels of this stretcher start to wobble when she discovers the girl this corpse is supposed to be was killed three months earlier.  It will later be revealed that girl’s father stole the body.  Now, it seems to me the disappearance of a corpse would have made news, but that had not appeared in her information search. 

It is when the corpse begins healing that things take a hard turn for the worse.  Suddenly, she can spiderwalk on ceilings and down walls and all that shit that is destroying modern horror.  This CGI bullshit was never scary and never will be.

I often wonder if it is better for a picture to be crap from start to finish, or to have it start on a promising note before taking a nosedive at some point.  The Possession of Hannah Grace is definitely an example of the latter.  It spends two acts overserving some conventions of the genre while subverting others.  Then it spends its final act squandering all goodwill it had built up until that point.  Yet another cubic zirconia from Screen Gems.

Dir: Diederik Van Rooijen

Starring Shay Mitchell and a corpse that simply refuses to keep still

Watched on blu-ray