I’m surprised to be reviewing The Exorcism of Hannah Stevenson. Considering we’ve recently experienced The Last Possession and even The Exorcism of God, I thought we were done with the genre. Shot as The Suppression of Hannah Stevenson, the first feature from writer/director Jason Parker apparently didn’t get the memo however.
A young woman, Hannah Stevenson (Hannah Rose) barefoot and wearing a white dress walks through the woods to the accompaniment of a chorus of female voices. She comes to the edge of a lake and continues to walk straight ahead. Next we’re in an Eastern European police station where Matt (Tom Hogan) sits handcuffed. He and Hannah were taking their first trip outside of England, and things have gone very wrong. He recounts the story to the detective.
While having dinner the usually shy Hannah gets up and dances with the belly dancer which surprises Matt and catches the eye of several local men including the rather disreputable looking Traian (Edward Gist). Despite that she still can’t bring herself to wear the lingerie Matt has bought her. Wanting to make him happy she consults a local Romani woman Eliska (Charlotte McEvoy, I Love You, Goodbye).who offers her a potion to cure her inhibitions, but these things always come with a price.
The Exorcism of Hannah Stevenson runs a fairly short seventy five minutes including credits, so I was a bit worried when it took until the half hour mark for Hannah to actually drink the potion. And for Matt to wake up alone the next morning. Half an hour to set up the plot of a ninety minute feature is perfectly fine, when it’s almost half the film’s running time however, that’s another matter.
To be fair that might not be entirely Parker’s fault as The Exorcism of Hannah Stevenson’s shoot was impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns and possibly some scenes had to be dropped. Regardless of the reason though, it takes too long for the film’s story to get to the point.
Once it does get moving, The Exorcism of Hannah Stevenson has a rather weird feel to it as Matt tries to find Hannah. For her part she’s got the pale white face like so many other possessed characters and is acting more like a monkey than a human being. It’s rather strange but not really frightening. Both the website and IMDB page for The Exorcism of Hannah Stevenson refer to it as horror and fantasy. And that’s fairly accurate as it feels more like a fairy tale than an actual horror film. And when I say fairy tale I don’t mean the cleaned up, family friendly Disney versions either.
Yes magic and possibly possession is involved, as is frequently in folklore, the real evil comes from the acts of mortals such as Traian and his buddies who see these events as a chance for some revenge, and aren’t above committing sexual assault in the process. Hannah, for the most part, is like an extra in what is supposed to be her story, acting as a catalyst for the events that take place.
The result is a film that’s mildly interesting despite its leisurely pacing and lack of actual scares. I do wish they had added some frights to the film, it could have been a reasonably good bit of folk horror if they had. But whatever you want to call it, The Exorcism of Hannah Stevenson certainly is not a traditional possession and exorcism film though, and the poster art has no resemblance to anything in the film.
High Octane Pictures has released The Exorcism of Hannah Stevenson on VOD and Digital platforms. You can check their Facebook page for more information.