18 years after her mother dies giving birth to her, Grace begins college, allowing her to get time away from her overbearingly religious grandmother. Grace begins suffering from hallucinations, then an incident at college forces her to return home to her grandmother, where she slowly becomes possessed.
Grace: The Possession is shot entirely in the first-person, save for the initial college exposition during the opening, and if you've seen The Prodigy video 'Smack My Bitch Up,' (full uncut version on YouTube here) or the gory Elijah Wood starrer Maniac, then you get the idea.
Now, watching an entire film shot in the first-person POV can take a bit of getting used to, as we tend to see something similar but in smaller doses in found-footage movies. However, director Jeff Chan, with the help of DP Norm Li, has done a solid job of pulling off the effect. This, of course, means that actress Alexia Fast, who plays Grace, is rarely completely seen, unless it's the times she's looking in the mirror. Thankfully, this happens often enough to allow us to see the changes that occur to Grace as the spirit begins to take over her body and soul.
The fact that Chan directed two live-action shorts for the game Call of Duty (watch here), a first-person shooter, might be a clue as to where the idea came from for using the technique in his latest effort, although, I'm merely speculating here. Using the first-person in this manner obviously has its limitations but luckily there was never anything off camera that felt needlessly missing or cut off.
We're forced to see through the eyes of a naive teenager, and to that effect Chan scores lots of points. As Grace makes her way through the campus and then the party later that night, we begin to more closely examine everyone's behaviour and how it must seem to an impressionable young woman who's never witnessed anything like this before. The drinking, smoking weed and sexually awkward questions, like, how often she masturbates, make it a bit more understandable on how a possession might occur in the first place.
Grace: The Possession
Alexia Fast, Lin Shaye, Alexis Knapp, Joel David Moore
28 October 2014
Nav's Grade: B+
Led by Alexia Fast, the cast are all pretty convincing and committed to their roles. Fast plays 18-year-old Grace who's had a very sheltered life living with her bible-thumping grandmother. Finally able to escape the overly pious old woman, Grace has just arrived at the bustling college, meets her roomie and starts to unpack when her grandmother (Lin Shaye) calls her on her cellphone to make sure she's found the bible that was packed for her. It's when Grace finds the bible in her suitcase that we get the first hint that something's not right, and this is also when the POV begins. The bible starts to shimmer as she holds it, and I'm assuming it's because of the perceived debauchery surrounding her, triggering the start of the demonic possession. Still on the phone, her grandmother is telling her how bad those places are, with Grace defending her decision to go to college, while we see her roommate Jessica (Alexis Knapp) topping off her water bottle with vodka.
In an unusual move, only the first 30-minutes are set at the college because Grace's hallucinations are getting worse. And after Grace collapses at the college party, her Grandmother happily pulls her out to keep her close to her and God. Unfortunately, this meant that the likes of Alexis Knapp and Brett Dier didn't have a great deal of screen time but they certainly made what time they did have count. Back at home things worsen, and whenever Grace looks in a mirror, she seems transfixed with her own appearance, as if at times she's not sure who she's looking at. It becomes clear Grace is meant to learn something and eventually she does piece the dark secret together. Grace is also convinced her mother's mental state before she died has something to do with her hallucinations.
When Grace is brought back home, her grandmother has arranged for their local priest Father John (Alan Dale) and Deacon Luke (Joel David Moore) to be waiting for them, so they can help convince her that she needs to be safely home. Exactly why they side with the grandmother I'm not quite sure but there was another scene shortly after that confused me even more. Grace and her grandmother take a tray of freshly baked cookies to church, and with Grace holding them, her grandmother goes around asking everyone if they'd like one. They all look at the grandmother with barely veiled distaste, refusing the cookies with weak excuses. This angers the old woman but why the congregation don't like her is a mystery.
Once the demon takes full possession of Grace, we get some cool effects as an exorcism is performed. There are a couple of effects we've seen before but there's also a few new ones that looked pretty cool and original, making for a great payoff. While there are one or two clichés in the mix, with the biggest and most obvious coming from the ending of Blatty's The Exorcist no less, there's more than enough new material and skill involved in Grace: The Possession to make this a worthy addition to the genre.
This is a tight little horror from co-writer, first-time director Jeff Chan, and he displayed real gumption shooting in POV in a debut movie. The acting was solid and the special-effects worked well. I'm sure some won't appreciate the style. But for those of you that do, you're in for a treat.