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The Possession of Hannah Grace
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 2/26/2019
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/13/2019
It’s been a while since we’ve discussed Hollywood “synergy”. This is a euphemism meant to replace words like “copy” or “stolen”, and refers to times when two movies with very similar premises are released by competing studios. In the past, we’ve seen examples like A Bug’s Life vs. Antz and Deep Impact vs. Armageddon or Dante’s Peak vs. Volcano. And while movies that had like qualities have arisen here and there over the years, we really don’t see this sort of phenomenon any more. But, that’s not to say that it can’t occur with smaller films. 2016 saw the release of The Autopsy of Jane Doe, a horror film sent in a funeral home. Many of its themes are reflected in The Possession of Hannah Grace.
The Possession of Hannah Grace opens with an exorcism as a duo priests are attempting to remove the demon from young Hannah Grace (Kirby Johnson), as her father (Louis Herthum) looks on. The story then leaps ahead three months. Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell) is a former police officer who is attempting to put her life back together. She has taken a third-shift position at a hospital morgue, where her job will be to receive, photograph, and then store corpses. On her first night, a young woman has been brought in, her body burned and slashed. As Megan attempts to process the corpse, the usual routine hits snags. Then, the lights malfunction and she begins to her strange noises. Megan’s anxiety turns to outright terror when she realizes that the body, which she’s now identified as Hannah Grace, has been moving. Is this all part of Megan’s PTSD or is something supernatural happening?
Those who have seen The Autopsy of Jane Doe (and you should check it out, as it’s pretty good) will immediately spot the alignment with The Possession of Hannah Grace. (And when you note that the latter film was shot in 2016, things get even more interesting.) Both films involve a mysterious body which is delivered to a morgue/ funeral home late at night. Both involve attendants who attempt to figure out what happened with the body. Both involve increasingly odd and violent paranormal events. The main difference is that The Autopsy of Jane Doe is played as more of a mystery. (And a quick scan of the internet shows that I’m not the first person to compare the two films.)
But, for the moment, let’s ignore that issue and examine The Possession of Hannah Grace on its own. The opening is a bit jarring, as we jump right into the exorcism. Then, the “Three Months Later” title is a bit odd, as we can’t help but wonder where Hannah Grace has been for three months. If it had been the next day, that would have made much more sense. The first act is somewhat predictable, but fairly well-structured, as we get to know Megan and the setting. (If you didn’t know that a buzzer would break the silence of the morgue, then you’ve clearly never seen a movie.) When Hannah Grace arrives, her contorted and battered body is undeniably disturbing, and there are some nice scenes which introduce the fact that something weird is going on.
But, try as he might, Director Diederik Van Rooijen can do only so much with the limited script. Once the initial idea is introduced, we are forced to watch scene after scene of Megan running around the morgue, escaping from one threat or another. Then, the idea is introduced that the demon inside Hannah Grace grows stronger each time it kills. OK, then why stay in the morgue when the hospital above is presumably filled with people? The movie also begins to rely too heavily on shots on Hannah Grace crawling around. This is creepy the first time you see it, but the effect quickly wanes. (And how is it that she’s naked, but never nude, if you catch my drift?)
Since 1973, filmmakers have been trying to do something different with the demonic possession sub-genre, so kudos to those behing The Possession of Hannah Grace for placing the possessed person in a specific setting. However, the movie leans too heavily on its central premise and never brings in enough new ideas. The diverse cast tries their best and something must be said of the production design. (Although the shape of the fluorescent lights is a bit heavy-handed.) In the end, though, The Possession of Hannah Grace feels very tedious and it doesn’t help that a similar, yet better, movie is already out there.
The Possession of Hannah Grace raises questions about the training involved to be a morgue attendant on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright, despite the fact that this is an overall dark film. The image does get somewhat soft at times, but the depth is fairly good. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track does a nice job of highlighting various sounds coming from around the morgue. The sounds aren’t as detailed on one would get on a lossless track, but they suffice.
The Possession of Hannah Grace DVD contains a few extra features. “The Killer Cast” (7 minutes) offers interviews with the actors as Producer Sean Robins describes the characters and why each actor fit that role. This offers some on-set footage. “An Autopsy of Hannan” (7 minutes) has Kirby Johnson and Special Effects Makeup Artist Adrien Morot describing the looking of Hannah Grace, as we see how the FX appliances where applied. “Megan’s Diaries” (90 seconds) is a two-part segment which has Megan describing her experiences in the morgue, accompanied by clips from the film. The final extra is one DELETED SCENE which runs about 1 minute.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long