The city morgue on the graveyard shift? Well, you can’t ask for a better setting for a horror film, can you? Shay Mitchell has been making a decent run in horror/suspense with her role of Peach on the stalker thriller You, as well as her newest role in this horror film The Possession of Hannah Grace. Horror films have become a new obsession for me in recent years, so I was very excited for this addition. Though given how saturated the market has become in recent years, my expectation was on the lower side of the spectrum. In its favor, there are several other familiar faces, including Stana Katic of Castle fame and Grey Damon. Additionally, the story unfolds in a suspenseful manner, which is half the battle right there. Though no possession film will ever top The Exorcist, The Possession of Hannah Grace is a worthwhile addition to the genre. I mean, it scared my wife out the room.
The story follows disgraced ex-cop Megan as she begins a new job as a night shift intake attendant at the city morgue. Off the bat, her supervisor informs her that this is not a job for the fainthearted, as her only coworkers will be corpses. Despite this, Megan takes on the responsibility, eager to redeem the sins of her past that resulted in her leaving the police force. While beginning this new chapter in her life, she is still haunted by the things that caused her to spiral out of control as well as the tense relationship between her and her ex-boyfriend, Andrew.
One night, she receives the body of a young girl whose body is contorted in a manner that almost seems inhuman. The EMT tells her that young Hannah Grace’s death was the result of an exorcism gone wrong. Not long after Hannah’s arrival Megan begins to notice strange happenings around the morgue including witnessing the body exhaling air. Her friend and nurse tells her that bodies often expel gases after death, but Megan remains suspicious. Meanwhile, Hannah’s father, who took part in the exorcism, returns to the morgue to destroy the corpse. Megan stops him, and while he is being taken away, he continuously yells that she is not dead. Suddenly, no one is safe, as Megan discovers that Hannah’s father was right.
Suspenseful, yes, but far from original. That is my assessment of the film. As earlier stated, there is plenty of suspense, especially with score choice which adds that tingle-of-the-spine aspect, but the film relies predominantly on jump scares to catch the audience off guard. This method is fine, but after while it was predictable to determine when and where the next scare would take place. Shay Mitchell is a scream queen in the making, as it is her unease and dread that drive forward the overall story. Also, her past drug abuse lends credibility to why she is not believed initially. Something that could have been expanded upon was Hannah Grace’s possession, as we are just thrust into this situation without clear context. Why was she possessed? What did the entity ultimately desire? That information would have drawn me into the story a bit more. Also, the other characters are a bit one-dimensional in comparison to Shay Mitchell’s character, though why that is somewhat understandable. However, for me, it made it very clear that they were expendable.
The special effects are the crown jewel of this film from the opening credits. I visibly cringed at the bone-crushing contortions of Hannah’s body during the exorcism, which was also the point that my wife left the room. Authenticity is a crazy thing to say when you are talking about a horror film, but the film is well grounded in the range of human physicality, as Hannah Grace is powerful, but she is not invulnerable and can be harmed. In a sense, this adds to the terror, as even if you managed to get her down, you have no idea when she is going to spring back at you with a vengeance.
If the morgue looked familiar to anyone, that is because it was the same location of the underground complex in Cabin in the Woods. Just a bit a trivia that I recently became aware of that I thought I’d share. Back on topic, hardcore horror fans will likely enjoy The Possession of Hannah Grace. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it provides decent suspense-filled experience that is guaranteed to have you jump at least once.