SXSW MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Hangman’ Is An Effectively Creepy Twist On Found Footage


Film: Hangman
Starring: Jeremy Sisto, Kate Ashfield
Directed by: Adam Mason

Following a family vacation to parts unknown, The Miller family returns home to find someone has burglarized their house. Nothing seems to be missing, but even after they clean up the family cannot help feeling like something is not quite right.

What audiences know that The Millers do not is that the person who invaded their home is still living within its walls. He’s also set up hidden cameras in essentially every room so he can spy on the family while they’re home and take advantage of their amenities when they’re gone. He has no identity, though at one point someone does call him Uncle Jimmy, but we do know that he is not well. This is clearly not his first home invasion, but at the same time he chooses to take risks that could easily get him caught, such as watching the Mr. and Mrs. Miller sleep while standing at the foot of their bed. These actions are effectively creepy, despite the fact they’re not all that plausible, and for what it’s worth they do create a near-constant sense of uneasiness that will be hard for many to shake.

It’s clear filmmaker Adam Mason went into this project with hopes of putting a fresh spin on the found footage genre, and by allowing viewers to experience a long-term home invasion through the eyes of the perpetrator he has done just that, but in order to do so he and his team had to take a few chances with storytelling which ultimately doesn’t always make the most sense. It was a risky endeavor that fortunately works out more often than not, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say anything found within the film’s 84-minute runtime is something wholly unique to this feature. Aside from the brilliant setup, which begins the moment the family leaves their car to depart on their vacation, most of what occurs during the second and third act of the film has been pulled from other, often more thoroughly entertaining creations.

All that said, I still feel the need to applaud Mason and his team for finding a new way to tackle home invasions that will no doubt soon be replicated by other, lesser known filmmakers around the globe hoping to strike VOD gold. The idea of telling your story not only from the perspective of the killer, but from the perspective of a killer who never speaks and offers little to no explanation for why he behaves so erratically is something I found to be endlessly enthralling, even if the final payoff felt far too abrupt for the time spent building tension. This is due at least in part to the convincing performances of the Miller family, which is led by none other than Law And Order veteran Jeremy Sisto.

I doubt there will be many who walk away from Hangman feeling a renewed sense of enthusiasm towards the found footage genre, but those who are still willing to embrace this often mishandled style of storytelling will find plenty to keep them up at night. Much like the recent entry It Follows, Adam Mason’s latest film finds a way to create a steadily-rising sense of tension from very early on, and even when the story loses steam there is a constant fear of the unknown permeating throughout each frame. The film could spawn a sequel if viewers demand more, but if we’re being completely honest I feel this is the kind of story that will only satisfy horror fans once, if that, and then it will quickly be forgotten.


Review written by James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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