Usually, the exorcism comes at the climax of your typical demonic possession thriller.
So kudos for to screenwriter Brian Sieve of TV’s “Scream” series for jamming his into the opening of “The Possession of Hannah Grace.”
But “Possession” is, as its title implies, not about the exorcism. It’s about the demon who will not die.
So Hannah’s monstrous assault on her exorcist priests and suffocation by her devoted dad isn’t the end. “Possession” is short, but not THAT short. No, it’s just the prologue for a tale set in one of those movie set/production designed-to-death movie morgues.
Because that’s where Hannah ends up “Three Months Later,” as the inter-title tells us.
It’s Megan’s first night on the literal “graveyard shift” at Boston Metropolitan Hospital. She’s to log, photograph and “intake” corpses after hours, because the city never sleeps and the dying never stops.
She seems seriously unqualified, but pal Lisa (Stana Katic), a nurse, put in a good word for her. Lisa, it turns out, is Megan’s sponsor. Because Megan, played by Shay Mitchell of TV’s “Pretty Little Liars,” is an ex-cop who had “issues,” but she has put those behind her, she assures us.
“Gotta be the right kind to stomach a job like this,” she’s warned. She is.
If she can just get through those first and second nights…
If the creeper/nerd security guard Dave (Max McNamara) will stop sneaking up on her.
If those motion-sensor lights in the cavernous halls and the odd cross-shaped florescent lights in the morgue itself don’t creep her out.
If that homeless guy who threatens her to try to gain entry to that morgue can be fended off.
If that mutilated corpse that’s dropped off, a corpse we recognize as the young woman smothered with a pillow embroidered with “By His hand are we healed” from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, will just give her a little peace.
Because three months after her “death,” Hannah’s in the morgue and making trouble.
“Possession of Hannah Grace” is a movie of grisly deaths but not much in the line of frights.
There’s little suspense as we see that morgue vault door shut, and then pop back open, many many times.
We see Megan try to cop-reason her way through this supernatural predicament. Mitchell is more interested in playing Megan’s inner reserves of strength than any mortifying fear, and that makes her a tough heroine, if not necessarily the vulnerable one the script intended.
We see Hannah skitter like an insect across darkened floors and see Megan reach for the Xanax. No, it’s not hers. But if you were seeing what she’s seeing, or thinks she’s seeing, you’d be inclined to self-medicate, too. The effects are first-rate, eye-averting gross and creepy.
And we can guess the climax once we’re shown the layout of that mortuary. It’s just a question of who will still be around to solve this little possession problem.
But the production design is top drawer. It’s just that if I’m mentioning that, there’s little else in the movie to recommend it.
The best one can say for this “Possession” is, well, I’ve seen worse.
MPAA Rating: R for gruesome images and terror throughout
Cast: Shay Mitchell, Kirby Mitchell, Nick Thune, Louis Herthum, Stana Katic, Max McNamara
Credits: Diederik Van Rooijen, script by Brian Sieve. A Screen Gems release.
Running time: 1:26