A family return home from vacation to find their house trashed. Unbeknownst to them, the man responsible is living in their attic, watching them through a surveillance system that covers every room.
So what can be said for a found footage movie that has more or less the same setup as Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)? Not much, to be honest, if you can even compare every cupboard in our kitchen exploding open to spitting in the orange juice like some low-brow chick flick revenge scene – usually accompanied by some overplayed 80s power-pop number blasting out over the soundtrack. Sure you could argue substance over spectacle but moving lamps and juice cartons? It’s not enough. It would almost be funny if it was clever enough.
Is their tension? Of course, at first, but it soon dissipates when you realise the makers are following a well-worn story structure, which means that the family probably won’t come to any harm whatsoever until the last 10 minutes of viewing time, for the sake of keeping them in the house where the killer wants them, as well as making the movie remotely plausible.
It’s impossible to care for the people that do fall victim to our villain before the finale because as if the fact we only see them through fly-on-the-wall surveillance isn’t enough of a disconnect, they are clearly introduced for the purpose of being picked off only moments later.
You also never lose the feeling that he has total control over the entire situation, that everything is inevitable and cannot be otherwise. Watching over everything like some cruel social experiment. Experiment complete. Collect data. Dispose of subjects. There’s no fight, no battle, nothing.
The most intriguing thing about Hangman is that it is one of the few in which we can see the entire movie through the killer’s eyes, albeit only technically in most cases. Usually this gives us a chance to gain a deeper perspective on who our antagonist is – a look into the abyss. Except that he doesn’t talk aside from a couple of psychotic episodes and when he utters his creepy tag-line. The questions fly. The questions mount. And they all go unanswered.
Mark Ezra, co-writer & co-director of the 1986 slasher classic Slaughter High, did roughly the same idea 5 years earlier with 2010’s You Are Not Alone aka House Swap. He made it better, and much scarier. Still, I can’t fault Hangman’s nod to Black Christmas (1974), which also featured an attic-dwelling psychopath.