Set Visit: Everything you need to know about The Possession of Hannah Grace

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Imagine, if you possibly can, being a rookie cop who loses their partner under tragic circumstances. Then imagine going off the deep end, using drugs and alcohol to numb all that pain, pushing away your loved ones and thoroughly ruining your life. Slowly but surely, you clean up, and find yourself ready to rejoin the work force. Obviously, being a cop isn't going to be possible again; in fact, you're still not quite up to being out in society yet. So what job can you be successful at while avoiding people – living people, at least. How about a morgue? Not many avenues for relapsing in a morgue… unless something unusual begins to happen, of course. Something frightening. Something that could drive you off the deep end again, or even worse than that.

That's the scenario of THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE, a new supernatural thriller from Sony/Screen Gems starring Shay Mitchell, Grey Damon, Kirby Johnson and Stana Katic. The film was written by Brian Sieve (Scream: The TV Series) and directed by Diederik Van Rooijen (TAPED). It will be released in theaters on November 30th.

Back in December of 2016, I was invited to the set in Boston, Mass. Just one day's worth, but enough to get a decent idea of what kind of psychological horror the film will offer. I saw a couple of scenes being shot, a grotesquely convincing corpse, chatted with the protagonists and walked on a set that was completely recyclable (more on that later).

Here's a break down of all you need to know about THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE!

– A quick rundown of what the film is about: Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell) was once a troubled cop who tragically lost her partner while on the job. After spiraling into addiction and breaking with her boyfriend (Grey Damon), Megan enters rehab and cleans up her act. Her first job after exiting rehab (at the suggestion of her sponsor) is intake assistant at a morgue. Doesn't sound relaxing, but the idea is that it will keep Megan away from people – which she apparently needs right now – as well as keep her busy and off the streets at night. On one of her first nights, the mutilated corpse of Hannah Grace comes in, apparently the victim of an exorcism gone wrong. (Full disclosure: they didn't tell us it was an exorcism on the set, but it can clearly be gleaned from the trailer.) Soon enough, suspicious events begin occurring in the morgue, with Hannah apparently being the perpetrator. Is Megan losing her mind thanks to withdrawal, or is Hannah slowly bringing herself back from the dead and leaving bodies in her wake? No points for guessing the answer correctly.

– What we saw on set: The scene being shot involved Mitchell's character being confronted by some pretty horrific visions. One was a guy shooting a gun in a hallway – it turned out this was a hallucination of the punk who shot and killed Megan's partner. What was really happening was far more terrifying: Hannah Grace was slitting the throat of a character (won't reveal who) from behind. Hannah's a pretty nasty character: the actress is skinny and pale, but the character, sporting a demonic expression, is thoroughly intimidating. She also goes on to pull apart another character, although we didn't see too much of that. This was toward the end of the film, the climactic battle between Megan and Hannah.

– The project has been in development for five years and attracted numerous interested parties during that time. It once had the title JANE DOE, but that was changed thanks to the existence of THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE. [The producers maintained they hadn't seen AUTOPSY or read the script at the time of shooting, nor were they worried about any overlap.] It was called CADAVER when I was on set, but that obviously changed at some point. (Minor note: the antagonist was called Anna Grey on set but now her name is, obviously, Hannah Grace.)

– Intriguingly, the producers told us that CADAVER was being developed for a PG-13 rating, but the film ultimately received an R rating, for "gruesome images and terror throughout." Usually, it's an R rated movie being turned into a PG-13 one, but perhaps HANNAH GRACE is following the lead of so many successful R rated hits, like IT and THE CONJURING franchise.

– The movie's villain, Hannah, goes through different stages of a transformation throughout the film. When we first meet her, she's brought into the morgue, burnt up, neck slashed open. As she awakens and goes on to wreak havoc in the morgue, her wounds heal. For example, when she rips the throat out of a victim, her own throat wound closes up. Actress Kirby Johnson, a contortionist, said there were "a few different looks" for the character, and her time in the make-up chair would take up anywhere from 3-4 hours. (Then an additional two hours to take it off.) On set was a very grisly – and realistic-looking – dummy version of Johnson, curled up in a tortured ball and riddled with bruises, cuts and burnt flesh.

– The three movies name-checked by producer Sean Robins as being inspirational for HANNAH GRACE: ALIEN (because a woman is in jeopardy in a confined space), Roman Polanski's REPULSION (which tells the story of a woman who doesn't know if she's losing her mind or not), and THE SHINING (because that's simply Sean's favorite movie). Robins remarked that he wanted to make a movie that not only has jump scares but "lingers with people" a week later, haunting them in a psychological way.

– Robins said the movie starts off as a drama, eventually adds a thriller element, then ends in a supernatural way; he's hoping it becomes the best of all of those worlds combined.

– Dutch filmmaker Diederik Van Rooijen was the first of 25 potential directors the producers met with, and he ended up getting the job. Evidently, while waiting to find out if he got the gig, Van Rooijen shot five minutes of the movie on a whim, just to show off his vision. The footage actually scared Robins, who was a big fan of Van Rooijen's previous thriller TAPED.

– Shay Mitchell's casting was helped by the fact that she has millions of Twitter and Instagram followers, a built-in social media following.

– Mitchell went on ride-alongs with real cops to better get acquainted with their lifestyles. She also attended AA meetings to understand the world of recovery.

– The producers invited morticians to come in and help bring as much authenticity to the film as possible.

– Asked to describe Hannah Grace/Kirby Johnson's elaborate body movements, Mitchell called them "disgusting" and "beautiful," saying Johnson almost dances across the floor. She also has a talent for making her joints pop (this can briefly be seen in the trailer; it's really Johnson doing that!).

– Johnson impressed the producers with her appearance in a music video, in which she crawled out of a small box. To further make her case, she auditioned by performing all kinds of creepy moves, and crawling along the floor with her legs over her head. Johnson learned at a very young age that she was able to twist and contort her body in unusual ways without feeling pain; it's what led to her being a dancer. HANNAH GRACE is only her second feature film.

– This will be of interest to the environmentalists out there: Robins told us that the entire set was built using something called Emagispace. "The entire set, when we strike it, will be re-usable, so we’re not wasting anything," said Robins. "And all the pieces themselves are coming from recycled wood. So, as opposed to we break this down and it would be scrap, we’re going to break it down and… make another set out of it."

To read more from the THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE set visit, CLICK HERE. We chat with Shay Mitchell about her fear of horror movies, working with the "disgusting" Hannah Grace, and more!

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Eric Walkuski is a longtime writer, critic, and reporter for He's been a contributor for over 15 years, having written dozens of reviews and hundreds of news articles for the site. In addition, he's conducted almost 100 interviews as JoBlo's New York correspondent.