Sunday, January 1, 2017

Hangman


   There was an excellent faux-documentary about a fictional serial killer that came out in 2007 called The Poughkeepsie Tapes. There was a brief segment in that movie where they showed the killer hiding out in a couple's house while they walked around and went about their business, only to kill them later when they least expected it. It was a terrifying scene, and one that seems to have been stretched into a full length movie with Hangman. However, this movie is a found footage movie, and one of the better examples of what the genre is capable of. Definitely one to keep an eye out for.

   I've talked about this at length before in several other movie reviews. Found footage is only effective so long as the set up maintains its plausibility throughout the movie. Lots of movies in the genre have main characters holding a camera, and they continue to film for reasons that seem increasingly absurd as the movie goes on. At best, the audience must suspend their disbelief, at worst, it breaks the immersion of the medium. Hangman, however, sets up an eerily plausible concept, as we follow around a serial killer who records his exploits via camcorder and hidden cameras set up in his victims' homes.

   The movie opens effectively right into the thick of things as the 'hangman' killer is stalking a victim around in her house. In any other movie, the opening credits would've immediately followed this scene but there simply are none in Hangman.  The movie clips along like it's a series of videos in a playlist. No credits, no music, but somehow the movie oozes the eeriest atmosphere. Maybe it's because the entire movie is basically from the killer's point of view. From 'go' we're following him around, seeing what he sees, and in a surreal sense there's the feeling of being complicit in his actions.

   I read in a review snippet here, by John Squires that, watching this movie, "you get the sense that you’re watching something you should not be-" and he's right. Hangman is an exceptionally uncomfortable movie throughout. While by most it's probably going to be unceremoniously heaped on the direct-to-video pile without so much as a second thought, I'm here to say that if you've got a fondness for this genre, you owe it to yourself to watch Hangman. It's really well made and it gets under the skin with ease. I've said it for years to anyone that would listen, good horror is not defined by how effective your jump scares are. The scariest things are often the threats you can see coming, quietly, slowly, and inevitably.

   Hangman is like that, it's quiet, slow, and inevitable but from beginning to end, there's a palpable and ever-present sense of dread. Even when the family that the killer is watching, is just having fun and being a typical family, you're still watching them through the killer's cameras. It's an inescapable unease that pervades every single film. Unfortunately, this gauntlet of sickness and perverse creepiness becomes exhausting as the runtime begins to drag. This would make for an excellent 30 minute short film, but the fact it feels like 2 hours at an anemic 80 minutes is kind of telling.

   There's some peripheral inconsistencies but most of the perceived plot holes that the internet has complained about are easily explained away. Overall, the movie is surprisingly solid and well made, delivering in full on it's concept and premise. It made me question why I watched it, as it was more of an exercise in dread and uneasiness than anything resembling entertainment- but I knew what I was getting myself into. I just didn't expect it to be so effective. Kudos to the filmmakers and the cast. Hangman isn't great- but it is really good. A small distinction that is almost irrelevant at this point.

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