Aug 27, 2019
It’s Takeover Tuesday, and we welcome back to the show Nathan Gibbons reviewing what might be considered the Diet Coke of the Diet Coke of ‘The Omen’. If that doesn’t make sense, be sure to catch his previous Takeover Tuesday episode for “The Prodigy” (Episode #548), where all will be revealed. And for two other evil seed films, check out our re-run for “Hereditary” (Episode #525) and “The Hole in the Ground” (Episode #491).
Before the review, we’ll have a promo for The One Where Show from Nathan Gibbons himself. Be sure to gorge on the massive numbers of podcasts he’s been posting over at Apple Podcasts by searching for “The One Where Show”. You can follow Nathan on Twitter @YaBoyGibbo and on Instagram @gibbogram1.
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Here we go!
<< THE ONE WHERE SHOW PROMO >>
JOSEPH: “Huh. He told me to meet him at this oddly built hospital slash morgue slash office building to receive his review. Looks like he left a note.”
JOSEPH: “Dear Joseph. Hard drive crashed. Cannot record review. Also, even though you’re not qualified, you need to take my night shift here. Sorry for the last minute change. Good luck! @YaBoyGibbo.”
JOSEPH: “Well, let me load up the film here on my cell phone, which seems to be working perfectly fine, and could be used at any time to stop any supernatural madness that might happen here. And then I’ll get to work on the review.”
JOSEPH: “You hear that?”
Today’s movie is “The Possession Of Hannah Grace”, the Screen Gems horror film directed by Diederik Van Rooijen and written for the screen by Brian Sieve. The film follows Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell), a traumatized former police officer taking a night shift job at the morgue as a step in her recovery after losing her partner on the force. So, of course, her first night they wheel in the cadaver of Hannah Grace (Kirby Johnson), who is... spoiler alert... possessed. And then hijinks ensue.
I actually don’t think Nathan had hard drive trouble. I think he saw this film, realized it had very few redeeming qualities, and ran hard and fast for the hills just outside Boston. At least I assume there are some hills there. And the problems with this film are no different than the slew of other “Exorcist” copycats that followed in the wake of that landmark film. Some pretend to be based on true stories, and generally very loosely based, considering exorcisms in this film, and many others, glamorize the Catholic rite of exorcism to be something more than the symbolic event it actually is. The possession films that work generally become franchises, like Child’s Play or The Conjuring or The Exorcist itself.
The rest end up like today’s film, a one-off hope of sparking another franchise. “The Possession of Hannah Grace” opens up with a failed exorcism on Hannah Grace, which does nothing that hasn’t been done better and with more originality than the films that have come before. If the title wasn’t a dead giveaway, this opening sequence ensures that you know the mysterious cadaver being brought into the morgue afterwards is most definitely possessed. Which is followed by a not very mysterious old man sort of explaining the spiritual physics of demonic possession for this film, which is that the cadaver heals itself with each kill, and sets us up for a tropey slasher scene for the small night shift crew of victims.
I’m telling you Nathan, as I scream this into the recorder you left me, I really struggled after the opening sequence. I knew the entire direction of this film, but it still had untold horrors to tell. Including the casting, which doesn’t help with this film at all. Franchise hopefuls put a lot of thought into casting these first films, especially if there’s any hope for long-term viability. I think the casting department had those hopes in mind when casting Shay Mitchell as Megan Reed, who has managed seven years of “Pretty Little Liars”, along with a few other series in the wake of it ending.
It’s too bad she can’t sell the part, which is a combination of a lack of focus in the story and not enough character development. By lack of focus, I mean this film has two focuses – Hannah Grace and Megan Reed – and neither character really gets the backstory they deserve, perhaps withheld for the hope of selling more films. I was sort of shocked to learn Megan was an ex-cop, because her vibe, not to mention the opening credits, do nothing to sell this part of her story. You know everyone else in the film is disposable, but Megan needs to have more substance, and it’s not there in the script, not given enough time on screen, and Mitchell can’t bring enough to overcome those two obstacles.
I’m also split when it comes to supernatural films involving religious themes, especially when you have to buy into so much dogma and structure to even get started with the story. You have to buy into demons, angels, heaven, hell, exorcism, the power of specific rites and languages. Sieve and Van Rooijen take the easy way out by tossing out the rulebook about the nature of Hannah’s possession, how the demon operates, its apparent ability to bilocate when seeking its victims, and what powers it may or may not have. Which turns the remaining film into a series of completely implausible slasher kills, or I guess entirely plausible when anything goes.
Is it fair, Nathan, for me to judge this film so harshly? I mean, should I really be shocked when major film studios task their independent acquisitions to churn out another potential horror franchise? I’ve been locked down here in this office hospital morgue watching this film over and over, waiting for someone to relieve me of my eternal torment. I’m not even sure how I’m supposed to post this, or why I’m shoehorning a story into what should just be a quick puff piece. And perhaps that’s the best metaphor for this film. And this review.
“The Possession Of Hannah Grace” is yet another demonic possession/exorcism film, which presents itself as a naked attempt to launch another horror franchise. The film offers nothing new for the genre, and generally recycles scenes and tropes from far better films. Hardcore horror fans will probably subject themselves to this film, but be sure to do so in the company of others, and not by yourself during the night shift.
Rotten Tomatoes: 19%
One Movie Punch: 3.3/10
“The Possession Of Hannah Grace” (2018) is rated R and is currently playing on Amazon Prime and STARZ.
JOSEPH: “What the fuck is that?!”