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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



The Possession of Hannah Grace: Show me demoney

The Possession of Hannah Grace: Show me demoney

A scary movie that does not scare can do little else. As the title suggests, the film is about the possession of a woman called Hannah Grace, though there is no reason or logic given behind the possession. In an 85-minute film, you can count the frightening scenes on the fingers of one palm. Originally titled Cadaver, the supernatural film was made under $10 million, and in spite of low merits, it might even end-up making some money.

A woman called Hannah Grace is possessed and the possession is spinning out of control. Her father and some exorcists try to get the demon out of her body, but it attacks them and kills one of them. Having tried every possible option to get rid of the demon and failed, her father suffocates her with a pillow, for only in her death would there be relief from the possession. Some months later, a female cop, Megan Reed, who has been sacked from her job due to a fatal error on duty and who is just out of rehabilitation, takes the job of doing the graveyard shift in a city hospital morgue. From her very first day, she faces a series of bizarre, violent events, caused by one of the corpses that seems to be alive and occasionally mobile.

The corpse is of one Hannah Grace, and Megan discovers that a Hannah Grace had died several weeks ago. The man who had brought the corpse to the morgue had told her that she had been brutally murdered, cut up with a knife and then the killer had tried to burn her body. He thought she must have been a prostitute, and the murderer, her pimp. Locked inside the basement corridors, Megan's horrifying visions soon lead her to believe that the body is possessed by a demonic force. Though she has been on drugs, she is sure she is not hallucinating and does not believe in spirits. “When you die, you die,” is her conviction. And then people start disappearing and dying, forcing her to change her views.

Written by Brian Sieve (Boogeyman 2, Boogeyman 3), The Possession of Hannah Grace is done with the exorcism in the very first scene of the horror movie that he still calls Cadaver. That is quite new. Most exorcism movies save the major exorcism scenes for their climax. The script, however, leaves much to be desired. It raises too many questions, for which there are no answers: Who possessed Hannah Grace? Why? Any reason why the evil spirit is given just one line of dialogue, that too in the opening scene? How did her father find her after her corpse had disappeared from her grave? Where did he get superhuman strength from? How did he break into the mortuary? Why did the demon not attack Megan and keep targeting others around her?

Dutch Director Diederik van Rooijen (Bollywood Hero, Daylight) does not oblige with any answers either. He is content with giving many a false scare. A character is playing with a ball and jumps to his right, outside the frame. Silence. Then, you see that nothing has happened. Take this, for example: Hannah is standing in front of an open door, when the security guy suddenly jumps up from below, scaring her, only to laugh at his own prank. There are many such things happening that ultimately lead you to find the real scares kind of funny, not frightening. The entire back story about Hannah’s police past seems contrived, in order to afford some sort of organic unity or poetic justice at the climax. Hannah’s cadaver plays games with her, but not once does it show its telekinetic powers, or any powers for that matter, when she is standing next to it, taking its finger-prints, examining its wounds, etc.. No reason is given for this odd behavior. Demons are illogical, one might presume.

Shay Mitchell (Pretty Little Liars), as Megan Reed, is presentable, into her character, and one of the few saving graces of the film. Grey Damon plays Megan’s cop boy-friend Andrew Kurtz, and is routine. Kirby Johnson (actress, gymnast, model, contortionist) is Hannah Grace, and her cadaver. You’ve got to give it to her. Ever since she was a kid, she was able to pop her arms out of their sockets, and for this role, she studied the movement of snakes. No wonder she slithers with professional finesse. And the many contortions are not bad either. Kirby insists that she can win any staring match, a quality that fits in perfectly in many of the shots wherein she is required to stare blankly.  

Nick Thune is Randy, passable as an Emergency Medical Technician. Louis Herthum is cast as Hannah’s troubled father, with looks to match. Stana Katic (Sister Cities) as Lisa Roberts is pleasant and easy. Maximillian McNamara, who appears as Dave, a Security Officer with a crush on Megan, is a jolly good fellow. Jacob Ming-Trent is seen as Ernie Gainor, the black security guard at the ill-fated hospital.

For the technically inclined, the film has a first: it was shot by cinematographer Lennert Hilllage using a full-frame mirrorless camera, the Sony 7SIII, that costs $2,000-$3,000. The production house used expensive Hawk 65 1.3x anamorphic lenses, including primes as well as an 80-180mm T2.8 zoom. These choices might have made shooting convenient and cheaper, but there is no outstanding quality visible on screen.

If you are looking for some bone-chilling scares, the theatre showing The Possession of Hannah Grace is not the place you should be heading for. Notwithstanding the Adults Only certification for India, with cuts too, it has only the butchered, partly charred body of Hannah to repulse you. Wait till the next potential cadaver comes along, and hope it is possessed by a more potent demon. This one does not have enough bangs for your bucks, and you might end up asking, “Show me de money.”

Rating: * ½



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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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