Over the past several years, there have been so many films about demonic possession that it is quite difficult to keep up with them all. In a subgenre that has become oversaturated, only a handful of possession films have been capable of leaving a lasting impression. One of the most memorable of these is THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE, directed by Diederik Van Rooijen.
Shay Mitchell gives a powerful and convincing performance as Megan Reed, a former police officer struggling with grief, depression, and addiction. Megan accepts a position working the night shift in the morgue, not simply because she needs a job, but also with hopes of dealing with her inner demons. The lights in the morgue are controlled by motion sensors and turn on and off by themselves. This combined with the fact that one of the security guards likes to play pranks, gives the morgue an eerie atmosphere and causes Megan to feel a bit unsettled. One night, the body of a young woman arrives at the morgue and this sets in motion a string of events that will force Megan to come face to face with a real demon. Oddly, the young woman appears to have been drugged, beaten, stabbed, and set on fire. Why on earth would anyone go to that much trouble to kill someone?
When Megan tries to take scans of the body and run the woman’s fingerprints, the standard procedure for all bodies that arrive at the morgue, the equipment suddenly stops working. The door of the drawer in the morgue where Megan puts the body won’t stay closed. It seems to be opening by itself and considering all the other unexplained activity that has been occurring since the body arrived, there is no way in hell I would stick around to find out what’s going on. THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE does bear some striking similarities to The Autopsy of Jane Doe, which happens to be one of my favorite films of recent years. Thankfully, the stories turn out to be quite different and if I had to choose, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is the superior film, at least in my opinion.
Megan’s ex-boyfriend is a police officer, so she is able to use his login to access the police database to look up the woman’s driver’s license and identifies her as Hannah Grace. Megan finds it strange that Hannah has brown eyes in her driver’s license photo, but the body in the morgue has one brown eye and one blue eye. A man sneaks into the morgue and tries to steal the body, but is stopped by security and arrested. After the incident, Megan does some research on the internet and discovers that Hannah Grace died during an exorcism a few months before her body showed up at the morgue. Megan’s closest friend, Lisa (Stana Katic), is a nurse who helped her get the job at the morgue. They are both recovering addicts, attend AA meetings together, and try to be supportive of each other. But when Megan tells Lisa about Hannah Grace and the strange activity in the morgue, Lisa not only doesn’t believe her, she suspects Megan might be drinking and using drugs again.
THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE does drag at times and some of the dialogue isn’t as creative as I thought it could have been, but it is notable that the film doesn’t rely heavily on jump scares to make it terrifying. There are some incredibly creepy moments that gave me the urge to leave the lights on after watching this film. The man who broke into the morgue manages to escape from police custody and returns to the morgue for the body. He tells Megan that Hannah is his daughter and her one blue eye is the mark of the demon that possesses her. Unbeknownst to Megan, Hannah has killed a few people while at the morgue and her father tells her that she kills people in order to heal herself. He also tells her that after several unsuccessful exorcisms, he finally killed Hannah himself by smothering her, but her body disappeared from the morgue and she has been killing people ever since. He says the only way to stop all of this is to completely destroy the body with fire.
The real question is why hasn’t Hannah Grace killed Megan? The final act of the film is extremely intense and remarkably satisfying. The last scene is quite clever because despite what transpires, in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but wonder who really wins in this story, good or evil? In case you’re overwhelmed by the insane amount of films about demonic possession, hopefully, I can help by recommending you definitely see THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE. It’s a truly scary film and a unique and creative take on the subgenre.
THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE is now available to own on Digital and Blu-ray and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.