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An unexciting exorcism - ‘The Possession of Hannah Grace’

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Finding new ways to tell the same story is one of the biggest obstacles to clear in filmmaking. There are only so many stories, but infinite ways in which to tell them. Horror cinema is particularly vulnerable to that kind of repetition.

Take exorcism movies, for example. Every one since “The Exorcist” plays out in more or less the same way, hitting the same beats. Some do it well, others not so much, but either way, you’ve pretty much seen it before.

“The Possession of Hannah Grace” initially seems like it might actually give you something different. It even starts to give it once or twice. But ultimately, it simply shrugs off the possibilities presented by its twist on the story and settles into the same old tumbledown pile of tropes. It’s a little different, yes - but not nearly different enough.

We open with an exorcism. The young lady (Kirby Johnson, “5150”) is tied to a bed in a room surrounded by Christian iconography; two priests are chanting and splashing and doing all the usual exorcism stuff. When things start to get particularly supernatural – guttural voices and sinister telekinesis, the usual - her father (Louis Herthum, TV’s “Westworld”) takes matters into his own hands and suffocates her.

Three months later, we meet Megan (Shay Mitchell, TV’s “You”), a former cop who is looking to get back on her feet after battling with addiction issues and breaking up with her live-in boyfriend (and former cop) Andrew (Grey Damon, TV’s “Station 19). Her friend Lisa (Stana Katic, TV’s “Absentia”) helps her get a job at the local hospital as a morgue intake attendant; on one of her first nights, she takes in a broken and mutilated corpse.

It’s the girl from the beginning, the titular Hannah Grace. And wouldn’t you know it, it seems while Hannah might be gone, there might still be someone in there. Someone with a rather gruesome plan to execute.

Megan is jumping at shadows. The strangeness escalates. And she’s not the only one down there – Lisa, a goofball security guard named Dave (Max McNamara, TV’s “Distance”) and EMT Randy (Nick Thune, “People You May Know”) all get drawn in by Megan’s questions, even if they’re not quite sure what to believe.

And then all the stuff that you already know is going to happen … happens.

First things first - I write this as someone with genuine love in his heart for horror movies: do not waste your time with “The Possession of Hannah Grace.” If you go, you will almost certainly regret it. The issue isn’t even the film’s terribleness; there are plenty of ways to enjoy watching bad movies. No, it’s the desultory blah-ness of it all, a stitched-together collection of horror movie commonalities with little interest in much of anything other than jump scares. It’s competent, but joyless, mired in the middle. It’s not good enough OR bad enough to make you give a crap. 

Maybe the worst part is the way it teases you with potential. We’ve rarely seen any attempt at telling the story AFTER the exorcism; it could have been cool. But it was not. Basically, they spend the last two-thirds of the movie banally squandering the narrative capital earned by the first third. It’s all skittering movement and flickering lights and muffled noises, but there’s zero tension. Absolutely none.

The cast makes its own significant contribution to the utterly lackluster dynamic of the film. Mitchell is OK, I guess, but there’s nothing memorable about her. It’s like they gave her a pill addiction so you wouldn’t forget who she was – and she’s the lead! Stana Katic is here, and while it’s not her fault, I can’t see her without wondering when Castle is going to show up. Damon plays the boyfriend as basically Google in handsome cop form, existing solely for Megan to have feelings at and magically retrieve information from. The other guys are here because there are only so many extended hallway walks and lingering shots of flickering lights you can include.

This is the worst kind of horror movie – forgettable. It is as completely disposable a movie as I can (vaguely) recall seeing this year. "The Possession of Hannah Grace" is the equivalent of the disappointing dregs of the horror section at Blockbuster circa 1993, a movie whose cover tricks you into renting.

It’s a movie whose title you can’t quite recall even immediately after watching; I called this movie by three different names - none of them correct – in a conversation that took place not two hours after seeing it. It is a placeholder that will fade from the consciousness almost instantly and we will forget that such a movie ever existed. If you love horror movies (or even just movies that are interesting), don’t bother with this one.

There are some films that you’ll never forget; “The Possession of Hannah Grace” is one that you’ll never remember.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 05 December 2018 15:50

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