A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Possession of Hannah Grace is a demon-possession horror movie with graphic gore and horror violence, as well as jump scares, screams, and other frightening moments. Characters are killed (throat-slicing, impaling, getting shot, etc.), with blood splatters shown. Corpses are covered with gory wounds, bruises, and burns. Guns are seen, and there's descriptive violent dialogue. Language isn't frequent but includes uses of "s--t," "a--hole," and "goddamn." The main character is a recovering addict; she attends an AA meeting and carries a bottle of Xanax (she thinks about swallowing the pills, but doesn't). Minor characters smoke. The young woman who's possessed is more or less naked throughout, but no sensitive body parts are ever shown; same for when the main character takes a shower. While the movie has a fresh idea and some nicely moody moments, most of the scares are old hat, and it's filmed in a lurching way that makes you wish the filmmakers had tried a bit harder.
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What's the story?
In THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE, Hannah Grace (Kirby Johnson) is possessed by a malevolent demon and is undergoing an exorcism. When the demon asserts itself and kills a priest, Hannah's father (Louis Herthum) smothers her. Months later, Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell), an ex-cop/recovering addict, takes a job as an intake assistant in the morgue of a Boston hospital. One of her first cadavers is Hannah, who was apparently rescued from a crazed killer trying to burn her body. While trying to photograph and fingerprint the body, Megan's equipment fizzles out. Then other strange things start happening, and before long everyone around Megan -- including her sponsor, nurse Lisa (Stana Katic), and friendly ambulance driver Randy (Nick Thune) -- are in danger. Can Megan stop the beast before it's too late?
Is it any good?
This demon-possession horror movie has enough good moments that it's a shame the filmmakers didn't try harder; for every effectively moody scene, there's another that's lazy, twitchy, or shopworn. The morgue setting of The Possession of Hannah Grace, with its motion-sensor lights that keep flickering off and on, is great, and it's mostly used well (though not as well as in another morgue-set horror movie, The Autopsy of Jane Doe). The creepy factor is high, and whenever something is just about to happen, director Diederik Van Rooijen and screenwriter Brian Sieve have things under control. But when they actually happen, the camera spasms, and the editing lurches, as if attempting to cover up the fact that we've seen all this scary stuff before, from jump scares to things suddenly whisking by.
That said, the cast is well-chosen and appealing, especially Johnson as the titular possession victim, though it's regrettable that she couldn't have been used better or more practically. In real life, she's a dancer and a contortionist, and while it appears that, here, she's doing some of her own unusual moves, Hannah mostly comes across as an uninspired digital special effect, with added clicking "skitter" sounds -- borrowed from many other horror movies -- for extra creepiness. Overall, The Possession of Hannah Grace isn't truly terrible, but it could have been more muscular if it only had a bit more "exorcise."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Possession of Hannah Grace's violence. How gory is it? Is it meant to be fun or shocking? How can you tell? How did the filmmakers achieve this? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of scary movies?
How is the main character's recovery from addiction handled? Is it respectful? Authentic? How does it affect the way you feel about her?
How does this movie compare with other demon-possession movies you've seen? Which ideas are reused, and which are new?
- In theaters: November 30, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: February 26, 2019
- Cast: Shay Mitchell, Grey Damon, Kirby Johnson
- Director: Diederik Van Rooijen
- Studio: Screen Gems
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: gruesome images and terror throughout
- Last updated: July 16, 2020
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