24th Aug2015

Frightfest 2015: ‘Hangman’ Review

by Mondo Squallido

Stars: Jeremy Sisto, Kate Ashfield, Ryan Simpkins, Ty Simpkins, Eric Michael Cole | Written by Adam Mason, Simon Boyes | Directed by Adam Mason

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I can’t imagine what it must feel like to return home after a family holiday, only to find your house as well as your belongings trashed by an intruder. That’s exactly what happens to Aaron (Jeremy Sisto, Wrong Turn) and Beth (Kate Ashfield, Shaun of the Dead) Miller in Adam Mason’s (Broken) latest thriller, Hangman.

However, unlike most cases, this isn’t the work of a vagrant or thief, this is something much more sinister. You see, the person who broke in to the Miller family home, never left and with the help of cameras set up around the house, he can monitor their every move and eavesdrop on every conversation. What starts as minor interaction such as helping himself to food and the families own toiletries, turns in to much more disturbing interactions that begins to put the already paranoid family under much more physical and emotional stress. That may be the least of their worries however.

Hangman is shot in found footage style. It’s no surprise that some find the genre to be something overly saturated with shallow productions and cinematic misfires. Thankfully, Hangman is somewhat unique. With films of this nature, without listing off names, we’re used to supernatural forces wreaking havoc. This time we have a found footage film within the home invasion sub-genre that is seen through the eyes of the intruder, a mere mortal just like us. I say that, but there are times where you may think to yourself he could be a pro ninja because he seems to get himself out of some rather implausible situations. Maybe the family collectively suffer from a major lack of peripheral vision? Small jokes aside, the film is actually shot and stylistically executed really well and actually has some thought put in to it.

Sure, we have the typical Paranormal Activity setup for the most part, but it works effectively, as does the kinetic photography. It’s never overly shaky and it’s not neatly photographed. It feels natural. Another plus point is the fact there is no score. A score in a found footage film is about logical as a snuff film with opening credits. The only music we have here is purely diegetic and it’s used well. In terms of story, it’s never made clear what the intruder’s true motives are, there may be slight hints scattered here and there, but it feels like a senseless act and I appreciate the ambiguity. We don’t always need it explained to us. Some may be put off by that aspect, so be forewarned. There are moments in the film that are often devastatingly effective because it’s left to our imagination. Another major turn off for some will be footage of the family going about their daily lives. Again, this didn’t phase me and I feel that overall, it added to the legitimacy of the film.

All in all, I enjoyed Hangman a lot. The found footage genre is one I have a lot of time and patience for if it’s done right. I can safely say that although not a masterpiece, Adam Mason and co-writer Simon Boyes (Luster) have crafted an entry in to the genre that although nothing pioneering, is unique enough to be miles ahead of a lot of films of the same ilk. It’s a well acted and genuinely tense thriller that is stylistically sound. If you’re getting bored of the found footage genre, give this one a try because it may restore some hope. A fine job indeed.

But remember, just because your windows and doors are locked, it doesn’t mean someone isn’t watching you right now. Oh, one more thing. I’d give the orange juice a pass for your breakfast tomorrow!

**** 4/5

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