SXSW Movie Review: Hangman

Published on March 27th, 2015 in: Current Faves, Film Festivals, Found Footage, Horror, Movie Reviews, Movies, Reviews |

By Brad Henderson

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I’m a huge fan of found footage. I stand behind this method of filmmaking 100 percent. There is a certain aspect that makes it feel like it’s more of a reality than your normal film. Even if a found footage film has ghosts or goblins in it, it can still hold that realism for me. I know it’s not for everyone but I think that’s because we are given a lot of garbage found footage films in addition to all the good ones.

This applies to all types of films, but found footage is primarily frowned upon because it has the “cheap” feel. Well, it has that cheap feel because most of the time it is. It just depends on whether the filmmakers can bring us something fresh or just interesting enough to hold our attention. At this point, I think the only people who can make a decent found footage film are the indies, because they strive to make something worth your while. When Hollywood tries to make a found footage film, it usually comes out bland and unoriginal. Paranormal Activity is a victim of this crime because once Hollywood got involved, it became boring and not scary (except for the third installment because I feel that is one of the scariest films ever made. Yeah, sue me.).

Recently I saw Hangman at SXSW and although it may not be original in any way, it still held my attention. Of course, the film borrows from other found footage films (mostly 388 Arletta Avenue), but it remains creative and above all, extremely eerie.

The Hangman is a guy who stalks families and records everything he does by placing hidden cameras all over the house and then secretly living there watching their every move. Now the first thing I heard people say was “that’s impossible.” Really? Is it impossible? I honestly don’t think it is because there are plenty of cases where there have been squatters in homes and the family is completely oblivious that they are there. Think about it: the average person isn’t home for eight to ten hours a day. What is happening in our homes while we are gone? I seriously think if someone wanted to do this they would be totally able to. That’s what is so scary about this film.

Yeah, you have to have some suspension of disbelief with Hangman, but it doesn’t go overboard or do anything improbable for the most part. We can always pick away at films and argue, “This is what I would do.” Yeah? You’ve been in that situation? It always bugs me when people say it wouldn’t happen because this is what they would do. No one knows what they would do because you’re not in the situation. It’s easier to justify or explain your thoughts in the comfort of your own home feeling safe and secure. Everything changes when you are faced with a challenge and you need to make a knee-jerk reaction.

Think about it: ever watch a relationship drama and someone says something shitty to their significant other and then you think “Oof, bad choice or words or decision”? Well, have you done it? Answer: Yep. We all have made bad decisions and have paid for it later on. That’s because our adrenaline is pumping and we react quickly or not at all. This is exactly why found footage works for me. It feels real.

This is also why I really liked Hangman. The decisions that the family made felt real. Everyone in the film gives an excellent performance. There are a couple scare gags and camera tricks that even shocked me. Now, I’m not saying Hangman has revolutionized the genre, but it uses the found footage aspect wisely and to its advantage. Hangman also doesn’t feel as if it was filmed on the weekend and the filmmakers shoved everything together at the last minute.

Every minute of the film feels planned out and it’s executed very well. Another reason it feels so real at times: we are following this maniac and learning piece by piece the truth behind why he is there. We are given little tidbits of the mental status of this guy and at one point in the film we think about him and only him. I have no doubt this film will get picked up because it’s easy to sell found footage these days. And I hope found footage enthusiasts will get to see Hangman because it’s definitely one to write down in the “good” book.

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