The opening reel of Diederik Van Rooijen's The Possession of Hannah Grace shows glimpses of promise. The film opens mid exorcism, as Hannah Grace (Kirby Johnson) writhes and moans before levitating, killing a priest and taunting her father, Grainger (Louis Herthum). The man then takes a pillow and suffocates Hannah, revealing the woman beneath, as the evil seems to evaporate from her body. Said body then makes its way to a city morgue, where former law enforcement officer Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell) has recently begun a job on the graveyard shift. The film then offers a few minutes of creepy, moody suspense as the evil reappears, before completely unraveling into an abrupt, unsatisfying ending.
Reed left the force after freezing in the line of duty, during which time her partner was shot and killed. She has flashbacks and hallucinations related to the events, and begins boozing and popping pills to cope. Her sponsor helps get that under control, and encourages Reed to apply for the morgue position, despite her having to work completely alone in the basement of a city hospital. Reed is hired and starts work, assuring her former boyfriend and current officer Andrew Kurtz (Grey Damon) that she is mentally stable enough to do the job. The twisted, burned body of Hannah Grace comes in late one night, and Reed places the body in one of the morgue's drawers. Soon, strange things begin happening around Reed.
In its opening minutes, The Possession of Hannah Grace manages to maintain some decent atmosphere. One neat trick Director Rooijen employs is having the morgue's lights cycle on and off based on motion sensors. The soundtrack includes the accompanying hum of LED-light interference, which becomes a foreboding warning that evil is afoot. The morgue itself is plenty creepy, but not necessarily in the way you might assume. This is not some haunted mental asylum; it is a modern facility in a modern city hospital, complete with plenty of steel, sharp tools and cutting-edge technology. Reed starts hearing footsteps and clanging doors, and notices that Hannah Grace's body, initially still in the drawer, appears to show signs of healing. A manic Grainger soon shows up and is willing to hurt anyone who attempts to stop him from making sure the evil inside Hannah Grace does not survive.
The movie soon shows its hand, and becomes a collection of fungible horror beats. The film relies too often on grainy surveillance footage and CGI trickery to evoke fear, and each interaction with the obviously-not-dead-dead Hannah Grace is the same. Practical effects like her twisted, lifeless body and a bouncing rubber band ball eclipse silly, CGI spider walking, and the filmmakers should have learned from penultimate possession thriller The Exorcist why less is often more. Worse yet is the insanely abrupt ending, which comes out of nowhere. Even when the scares do not work, the majority of The Possession of Hannah Grace tries to build suspense. The jump into the finale feels like the filmmakers cut a solid 30 minutes of material (and maybe they did) and is tremendously underwhelming. This demonic-possession rehash offers little to recommend.
Sony's 2.39:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image looks pretty good despite the film's lower budget. Fine-object detail impresses, and textures on costumes and set dressings are abundant. Black levels are good, and shadow detail is abundant amid the frequently low-light set pieces. Digital noise is kept to a minimum, skin tones are correct and colors are appropriately saturated. This image is not the most flashy you will see, but it is certainly competent.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix makes the most of the film's occasionally effective atmospheric effects. There are plenty of moans, creeks, pitter-patters and thumps to surround the viewer, and the LFE kicks in during more hectic sequences. Dialogue is crisp and the score is appropriately integrated. A host of lossy dub soundtracks and subtitle options are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release comes in an Elite case that is wrapped in a slipcover. A digital copy is included. Extras include The Killer Cast (6:31/HD); An Autopsy of Hannah (6:36/HD), which looks at the make-up effects; Megan's Diaries (1:34/HD); and a Deleted Scene (0:44/HD).
Despite some early promise, The Possession of Hannah Grace devolves into another generic possession thriller with cheap scares and a lousy ending. Skip It.