Sunday, 2 December 2018

The Possession Of Hannah Grace

Saving Grace

The Possession Of Hannah Grace
2018 USA Directed by Diederik Van Rooijen
UK cinema release print.

Well this is an entertaining little horror movie I saw the other night, based solely on the strength of the trailer I saw about a month before.

Now, it has to be said, the promotional trailer for The Possession of Hannah Grace is cut so that it seems to be a lot more subtle and atmospheric than it actually is... at least in terms of a slow burn film, that is. This one is anything but restrained and even during the opening pre-credits sequence we are treated to an ‘exorcism gone wrong’ with all the kinds of post-Freidkin possession shenanigans you’d expect to see in something like this, thrown at you in the first five minutes or so. It’s quite hokey, in all honesty but that’s okay, there are many kinds of horror films and this is just not one based on any sense of deepening mystery, is all.

The story is the tale of Megan Reed, played ably by Shay Mitchell. An ex-cop who is cursed with the cliché of failing her partner by not using immediate, deadly force and who has left the service because she can’t cope with the hesitancy that killed her colleague. And, yeah, if you think this back story is just setting her up for a shot at redemption and recompense towards the end of the movie... bingo. Like I said, not subtle but that’s okay, it’s a fun enough ride.

So anyway, shortly after we join Megan, she starts the first night of her solitary graveyard shift at the Boston hospital and, of course, as you would expect, the body of the victim of the exorcism gone wrong, Hannah Grace (played quite dextrously by Kirby Johnson), is brought in and starts causing all kinds of trouble for poor Megan, as it’s clear the exorcism didn’t quite take. And... yes, if you’re thinking this sounds a touch like The Autopsy Of Jane Doe (which I reviewed here) then you’d be absolutely right. This is a little like that film but with no slow build up or mystery and lots of demonic battles pushed to the fore. I mean, all pretense at mystery on this one is taken away at the end of the first pre-credits sequence anyway, when it’s made clear to the audience that Hannah Grace... or at least the cadaver of her which is inhabited by a demon of some kind... is not exactly dead.

Now, the film tries to have its cake and eat it by showing us Megan working alone in a dark suite of the hospital morgue while, at the same time, having her connect with, or sometimes meet and make, new friends and acquaintances over the evening. The reason why the story does this is very simple... the somewhat less than static corpse of the title character is slowly healing herself and, basically, the more people she kills, the less crippled, burned and wounded she is. So we get a steady stream of potential victims visiting Megan for various reasons over the course of the evening, specifically so they can be stealthily killed by Hannah in some kind of supernatural way. Which kind of works okay and I didn’t mind this way of doing things here... once I’d figured out the director was going for full-on demonic showdowns rather than trying to build a scary atmosphere. It’s a valid way of going about things and it... just about... works here.

There’s also a nice sense of symmetry in the mise en scene to this movie and, by that, what I mean is that this director seems to really love the middle of the screen. I would guess that for over 90% of this movie, the camera favours shots which pitch the main action or focus of the shot dead centre. It’s almost like Van Rooijen and his cinematographer have an obsession with this way of doing things. Sometimes he will just use the vertical slabs made by corridors, doors and windows to pull everything to the middle and often he will be moving his camera around, sometimes hand held, so that whoever the character he is following will still mostly stay at the centre of the frame. Occasionally, he will use the twisted, fast, creepy crawling cadaver of Hannah Grace and deliberately pitch her off centre in order to contrast this style and attempt to surprise the audience but, even some of the jump scares are pitched directly centre of the shot and are done by masking off visibility with fluctuating light and shadow rather than with peripheral details.

Strangely, there’s an obvious set up early in the film and he never seems to yank on that string later... at least not in this cut of the movie. Very early on the filmmakers go out of their way to make us understand that about 90% of the lights in the morgue are sensor operated on movement to save energy and this is further highlighted by constant scenes of Megan having to go into dark areas and wave her arms about so the lights come back on. So, yeah, I was just waiting for this to be used as some kind of set up to some big kind of jump scare but... no, surprisingly the director doesn’t really utilise this here. That being said, there could well have been a scene which did just that in an earlier cut, for all I know. I’m just guessing here though because, why shoot all those instances as a set up unless you were going to take advantage of it later on in the movie? Unless he just wanted an excuse to keep everything darkly lit, I suppose.

At the end of the day, The Possession of Hannah Grace has some nice acting, some likeable characters and also, I should add, a nice soundtrack by composer John Frizzel which, alas, doesn’t seem to have a CD release. The downside on this is it’s fairly predictable and there are no real scary bits in this one. However, as a ‘comfort horror’ film is works quite well and I think most lovers of the genre will quite like this one. Or at least not find much to complain about. So there you go, that’s me done on this one. If horror movies, no matter how hokey, are your thing, then you might want to give this one a go. If not... yeah, you can probably miss this one. I quite liked it and will be happy to watch it again when the Blu Ray goes into the bargain bins, for sure.

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