The Possession of Hannah Grace

NEW YORK — If you take a job working the night shift at a morgue, the least you can expect is a little peace and quiet. According to the dreary horror tale “The Possession of Hannah Grace” (Screen Gems), however, such tranquility is not necessarily guaranteed.

Shay Mitchell stars in a scene from the movie “The Possession of Hannah Grace.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo | Sony)

That’s too bad for the film’s protagonist, Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell), since she’s much in need of calm. An ex-cop who blames herself for the death of her partner, Megan is on the rebound from mental and addiction problems when her Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Lisa (Stana Katic), a nurse at a Boston hospital, suggests she apply for a position there superintending the demised.

Megan gets the gig, which seems like good news. But the audience knows better.

We’ve been treated to an opening sequence featuring a failed exorcism on the writhing, roaring teen girl of the title (Kirby Johnson). This futile rite ends with a lay participant in the ceremony (Louis Herthum) — who may or may not be Hannah’s own father — desperately smothering the lass with a pillow in order to save the life of one of the priests ministering to her.

So when Hannah’s body arrives at Megan’s new workplace, we know there’s bound to be trouble. And, indeed, the devil in Miss Grace turns out to be the Energizer Bunny of demons.

Director Diederik Van Rooijen focuses more on spooky settings than splatter. But momentary bloodletting and some grisly sights suggest even many grown-ups may want to avoid his unrewarding film, scripted by Brian Sieve.

As for the pseudo-Catholic content, it’s mostly restricted to those early scenes and no more inaccurate than is typical for the genre. Thus, one of the clergyman blesses Hannah in Latin, which seems a bit unlikely nowadays, and the aspergillum with which she’s practically bathed in holy water is the size of a considerable tree branch — rather unwieldy, one would think.

Keeping track of the sketchy details at least helps pass the time as revived Hannah exacts her death toll. Given that the lively corpse is naked for most of the run time — Van Rooijen handles this discreetly — the question arises whether that didn’t make things rather chilly for Johnson. Such are the profound reflections this instantly forgettable picture prompts.

The film contains occult themes, occasional violence, including torture, with brief gore, gruesome images, distant rear and partial nudity, a mild oath, about a half-dozen crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.