The Possession of Hannah Grace head of special effects makeup and prosthetics was Montreal-based Adrien Morot.
Adrien worked on the Oscar-winning 2015 wilderness drama The Revenant. It was he who designed the one-of-a-kind look for Kirby Johnson’s Hannah Grace. This was, of course, in collaboration with director Diederik van Rooijen and the film’s producers.
Horrifying but real
“We wanted something horrifying but real,” says producer Sean Robins. “We wanted this evil entity to still be recognizable as a person, your worst nightmare of what a body could look like—a combination of having been cut apart, burned, torn to pieces—but still human.”
“When I design a character, I want people to be able to immediately understand what’s going on with their first glimpse of the character,” Adrien adds. “Hannah Grace is burned on half of her body. She’s been slashed and has all sorts of other injuries. I had to make sure that the injuries would be precise and flow in a certain direction. Specifically, she has a neck slash that gives the impression that her head is coming off, along with a stomach gash, tons of little cuts here and there.”
Life-sized scale model
For some select scenes, Adrien created a life-sized scale model of the disfigured corpse. He and his team took a life-cast, or mold, of Johnson with her body curled into the fetal position, casting her hands separately in silicone. “If you do your mold properly, you will have all the details, down to the skin textures, fingerprints and the nails,” Adrien Morot says.
“At first, it’s an unpainted skin, so we applied the color that’s the basic tone for her skin. Then we painted the wounds and burns based on images in forensic pathology books showing what human skin looks like once it’s burned and the color schemes that you would have surrounding the burns. Then we made acrylic eyes and acrylic teeth to put in her head and punched in hair for her hairline, applying a wig behind.”
Seeing the finished creation was deeply unnerving. “Kirby and the Hannah model are so exactly the same,” marvels Mitchell. “I’d walk in and ask, ‘Is that Kirby?’ It’s so creepy because I’m really looking and I still can’t tell. Adrien is just incredible—he’s a full-on artist.”
It was Adrien Morot, too, who was tasked with transforming Kirby Johnson into a preternatural predator. It was an extensive, time-consuming process that required the actress to spend hours daily in the makeup trailer. “Altogether, we created 20 prosthetic pieces constructed of medical-grade silicone for her body to go along with full-body makeup that includes things like tiny airbrushed veins,” Adrien says. “On top of that, we had to deal with the issue that the movie required a young, essentially nude woman to walk around. So, I designed the makeup to make sure that the nudity is hidden. Every cut and burn is conveniently placed.”
Says Adrien, “It took four hours to get ready with all my prosthetics and hair and makeup and then two hours to take it all off at the end of the day. It looked so realistic that I’d walk by a mirror and think, Oh my goodness, that’s me! I look so terrifying.”
“She created that character out of whole cloth,” adds producer Todd Garner. “Her physicality, her look, her intensity, she’s tireless. She would go for eight hours as hard as she could because she’s a very athletic person.”
Something never seen before
Kirby Johnson wanted her character to feel separate and distinct from any earlier horror movie creation. “I tried to make Hannah Grace’s movements and characteristics different from everything I’ve seen before,” Kirby Johnson notes. “You see her face a lot, which is very different from many horror films where they don’t really show the villain. You realize that this is a girl, so I tried to keep her movements human but a little broken since she’s been dead for a while, a little stiff.”
Although her body might have technically been covered, Kirby did still feel the effects of the cold during the shoot. “I had a scene with Kirby that we shot overnight outside in a wet parking garage,” remembers Thune. “It was 40 degrees or less, and I thought I had it bad, crawling around on the wet ground. But Kirby, who weighs maybe 65 pounds—she’s a very small girl—was naked outside in that weather. And you never heard a complaint out of her.”
“That was the hardest scene for me to film,” remembers Kirby. “We had to shoot outside at night at like two in the morning, and it was freezing. My costume? There’s barely anything there except for a few prosthetics. They kept spraying the ground down with water, and I had to crawl through puddles. But the payoff is incredible.”
The Possession of Hannah Grace Featurette “Realistic Look”
The Possession of Hannah Grace Lowdown
A pulse-pounding, R-rated horror-thriller sure to terrify audiences.
Synopsis: A shocking exorcism spirals out of control, claiming the life of a young woman.
Months later, Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell) is working the graveyard shift in the morgue. She takes delivery of a disfigured cadaver… Locked alone inside the basement corridors, Megan begins to experience horrifying visions. She starts to suspect that the body may be possessed by a ruthless demonic force.
Cast: Shay Mitchell, Grey Damon, Kirby Johnson, and Stana Katic