Another week, another demonic possession movie on Netflix. Like haunted house movies, the demonic possession or exorcism movie is something like comfort food for horror fans. It may also have something to do with the fact that these movies tap into very basic fears about good and evil. Though it’s several years old, Grace: The Possession just recently turned up on Netflix. From a first-time director Jeff Chan, this thriller promised a different take on a familiar subject. Unfortunately, the movie still failed to possess critics.
Years ago, Grace’s mother died under strange circumstances while giving birth to her. Now a naïve Grace is leaving for college after living with her devout, repressive grandmother. Immediately, the freedom of campus culture shocks Grace. But things only get worse when the same demonic force that haunted her mother takes a hold of her.
Grace: The Possession, Not The Possession of Hannah Grace
Poor Grace: The Possession. If its demonic possession story wasn’t already generic, even the movie’s title is derivative. Type Grace: The Possession into a search engine and it’s only the second movie that pops up – following The Possession of Hannah Grace. By the way, The Possession of Hannah Grace was also not a very good movie. Writer and director Jeff Chan offers up a first-person perspective similar to Franck Khalfoun’s (P2, Amityville The Awakening) Maniac remake. At the very least the POV approach shakes up what’s an arguably formulaic movie. It adds a bit of tension, sporadic claustrophobic horror, and a few shocks. If you’ve seen a dozen exorcism scenes the POV perspective almost makes it feel fresh.
There’s bits of just about any demonic possession movie you’ve previously seen …
Unfortunately, Grace: The Possession’s biggest problem is that if offers nothing substantively fresh. That is, Chan’s POV approach doesn’t amount to much more than window dressing. While the 2012 Maniac remake made audiences feel complicit in its killer’s misogynistic violence, Grace: The Possession lacks bigger ideas and/or subtext. With the POV approach, Chan’s thriller is really just a pseudo found-footage movie. Take it away and Grace: The Possession is just another exorcism movie. There’s bits of just about any demonic possession movie you’ve previously seen with a dash of Carrie thrown in for good measure. Given its predictable nature, the movie can’t sustain its scares.
Grade: The Possession Has a Game Cast But Overly Derivative Story
Poor Lin Shaye (Insidious: The Last Key, The Final Wish, The Call). On one hand, horror fans should be happy to see Shaye – one of the genre’s better character actors – in more movies. Still it would nice to see Shaye in a few better movies. Not surprisingly, Shaye stands out as one of the better parts of Grace: The Possession. Even with a screenplay that gives her Piper Laurie’s Carrie leftovers, Shaye breathes some life into the movie. As the title character, relative unknown Alexia Fast does quite well balancing out Grace’s naivete with the increasing terror she experiences. And the supporting cast – which includes Alan Dale, Alexis Knapp (Pitch Perfect), and Joel David Moore (Hatchet) – is excellent across the board.
Not surprisingly, Shaye stands out as one of the better parts of Grace: The Possession.
As mentioned above, it’s the movie’s screenplay that lets down its cast. Chan and co-writer Chris Pare, working from Peter Huang’s story, don’t have much to say. Moments that should shock feel telegraphed early in the movie. In fact, Grace: The Possession’s one major wrinkle to the subgenre, it’s POV approach, gives away what could have been a fun late-game twist. Unless you’ve never watched a horror movie, there’s little here that’s likely to surprise you.
Grace: The Possession is Watchable, But Underwhelming
Nothing technically about Grace: The Possession makes it a bad movie. In fact, it would be unfair to label it awful. Chan’s direction is competent and the movie remains watchable from start to finish. But the movie’s slavish devotion to subgenre tropes far outpaces its workmanlike quality. Feel free to get up and grab a snack or run to the bathroom – this isn’t edge-of-your seat material. And a POV approach doesn’t add enough style to overcome a lack of substance.