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Movie Review

Megan Reed is an ex-cop who’s having, well, issues.

It all stems from one terrible night when she faced down a thug with a gun. And instead of shooting the perp, she watched as the guy killed her partner and ran away.

After that came the therapy.

Then the booze.

The drug abuse.

The lost relationship.

The 12-step program.

Now Megan's trying to put her life back together. She's getting a leg up from her Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, and she's taken a job at a Boston hospital morgue as the overnight intake assistant. The job doesn’t require any of her former police skills. It doesn’t really require any skills at all really, just the ability to make it through long, dreary nights in the cold, bleak, shadowy corridors of a big ol’ place full of dead bodies.

Alone.

But Megan knows how to handle bleak and alone. She’s learned to live with the dead, too. At least those she sees in her nightmares. So, it all oughta be good.

Soon after getting the job, though, the twisted-up, broken cadaver of a teen girl named Hannah Grace is delivered into her care. The girl was obviously hacked at with a large blade: Her savage wounds gape, her head is nearly severed from her neck. And someone apparently tried to burn poor Hannah's remains to boot. It’s gruesome to behold.

The same night, a homeless guy sneaks into the morgue and tries to stuff that girl’s ravaged corpse into the incinerator, claiming that she isn’t dead. The security crew and local police eventually drag him away. And Megan can’t help but marvel at the weirdness of the world we live in. I mean, any fool with eyes could see that Hannah Grace is way dead.

But weird happenings soon start to poke at Megan, like a sharp pebble in her shoe. Did she just catch a movement in the dark out of the corner of her eye? And why won't the girl’s body just stay closed up in the cold morgue drawer where Megan put it? And are this deformed corpse's wounds … healing?

The ex-cop in her doesn’t like to admit it, but Megan’s emotional crisis and addiction have caused her to feel things, see things that aren’t, well, always real. An addict’s brain tends to find new ways to cope. She thought she had gotten past those issues. But now ...

Man, this night just needs to be over.

Positive Elements

Megan has obviously been psychologically damaged by the trauma of her police partner’s death. But over the course of the film, she regains her ability to fight back against terrible things, both emotionally and physically. And the film suggests that facing new challenges can be a catalyst for healing old emotional wounds stemming from past perceived failures.

It’s also obvious that several people in Megan’s life care a great deal for her and want her to get back to a healthier place. Her ex-boyfriend, Andrew, initially comes off as being overly controlling. But we eventually see that he’s just trying to protect her from relapse.

Elsewhere, a guy speaks of being able to clean up his life and to “become a better person” thanks to the birth of his daughter.

Spiritual Content

As the movie's title obviously announces, this is a film about possession. And the demonic evil at work here is nearly insurmountable, while any semblance of spiritual good is depicted as impotent at best.

The film begins with a failed exorcism. Catholic priests stand around a tormented and writhing Hannah Grace’s bed, and they cry out in the name of the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” We hear one of them calling the demon out in “Jesus name.” When the teenage girl is splashed by holy water, she writhes and screams; but the priest’s prayerful efforts only seem to empower and embolden the infernal presence within her (which is creepily represented by one bright blue eye). The room where the attempted exorcism takes place is adorned by a large crucifix, a number of hanging crosses and other religious symbols.

During this rite, as well as later on, we hear the demon bellowing its rage. It cries out that it will possess the young girl forever. And it emits screeching supernatural torments as it elevates victims and tosses them around physically. And when it kills others, the entity is somehow able to suck life from each victim and then heal its human vessel's wounds—from mending large tears and flesh burns to snapping and reconstructing bones. In one scene a swarm of flies exits the savaged corpse as well.

Hannah’s father tries to kill his daughter by smothering her with a pillow, one that has the words “By His wounds we are healed” stitched into its pillowcase. He tells Megan later, however, that the girl’s possessed body dragged itself back up from the grave.

Sexual Content

We see unclothed corpses (all male except for Hannah) in the city morgue, though their genitals are strategically covered.

In Hannah’s case, the teen’s twisted, tortured and burned body is mostly kept covered. But as the possessed young woman's body “heals,” more of her nakedness is exposed to the camera’s eye as she scrambles along the floor and ceiling. In one such scene, her breasts are exposed.

We see Megan in the shower twice, but the camera shows only her bare back and shoulders. She gets out of bed dressed in a tank top and underwear on one occasion.

Violent Content

We see someone impaled through the forehead on several sharp spikes. A man’s throat is bloodily slashed, and another has his head crushed. Several people are supernaturally hoisted into the air and painfully stretched akimbo as their bones and ligaments pop and break. (Hannah’s bones repeatedly snap in and out of place, too, as her body contorts in impossible directions under the influence of the malevolent spirit within her.)

One guy is dragged screaming across the ceiling and drawn into an open cooling compartment where his cries are cut off by an ominous crunching sound. Two people are forcefully shoved into the roaring flames of an incinerator as they struggle and scream.

Hannah’s bodily wounds are the most grisly of the many on display here. They’re not bloody, but the gashed and gaping cuts on her body and neck (suggesting that someone attempted to cut her in half and tried to sever her head from her body, too) are realistic looking. The camera examines these gruesome rents repeatedly. Much of her body is also charred and crisped from flame. During the exorcism, Hannah writhes and struggles as her father smothers her. Megan also shoots the possessed young girl repeatedly, opening bloodless holes in her upper body.

Megan gets cut by broken glass. She fights off a male attacker with blows to his body and head. Another guy is slashed by a large knife in a struggle. [Spoiler Warning] The slashed and bloody corpse of a dead man is seen standing in a shadowed stairwell.

Crude or Profane Language

God’s name is misused some half-dozen times (two in combination with “d--n”). We hear one or two uses each of the s-word and “a--hole.” Someone makes a crude reference to male genitalia.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Megan is a former addict. In an AA meeting, she talks of sometimes longing for “drink and pills.” And we see her reach, in highly stressful moments, for a bottle of Xanax she has hidden away. But though she pours a few of the pills into her palm, she overcomes the urge and puts them back.

Megan’s AA sponsor, Lisa, smokes a cigarette. Someone else talks of having a drinking problem in the past.

Other Negative Elements

Megan lies about not having a bottle of prescription medication that her ex-boyfriend left behind. She also surreptitiously logs into the official Boston Police Department website using her ex’s profile and password.

Conclusion

When asked, horror fans often list a number of reasons for watching frightful flicks. Those reasons include the adrenaline jolt of being highly stressed while in a safe environment; encountering a clear-cut sense of good and evil in a spiritually and morally muddied world; the shared social experience of witnessing a film's creepiness; the thrill of seeing someone make it through great peril.

The Possession of Hannah Grace checks some of those boxes. Its graveyard-shift-at-a-morgue setting—complete with movement-activated overhead fluorescents and a demon-possessed corpse twitching across the ceiling—is certainly creepy enough.

But though the movie is all about spirituality, it must be said that the film's demonic entity is easily the most powerful spiritual force here. The godly side of that spiritual conflict, however, is sadly portrayed as empty and powerless as an actor in an ill-fitting priest’s frock.

I suppose the strongest element of the film is the fact that the central character somehow claims a bit of healing from her midnight struggle with the demonic.

Ultimately, though, we each need to consider what we walk away with by terror’s end. In the case of this pic, I’d suggest that we get a tired collection of formulaic jump scares and an incessant dose of bone-grinding, demon-in-a-naked-corpse death-dealing.

The Possession of Hannah Grace is, frankly, little more than a cold room chock-full of bleak and bloody bumps and battles that suggest demonic power trumps God's omnipotence.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Shay Mitchell as Megan Reed; Kirby Johnson as Hannah Grace; Grey Damon as Andrew; Louis Herthum as Grainger; Stana Katic as Lisa; Max McNamara as Dave; Nick Thune as Randy

Director

Diederik Van Rooijen ( )

Distributor

Screen Gems

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

November 30, 2018

On Video

February 26, 2019

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

Content Caution

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Teens
Adults
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