You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

SXSW Film Review: ‘Hangman’

A family unwittingly hosts an uninvited, spying guest in this chilling variation on found-footage horror.

Jeremy Sisto, Kate Ashfield, Ty Simpkins, Ryan Simpkins, Eric Michael Cole, Amy Smart, Ross Partridge, Vince Ventresca, Bruno Acalinas, Ethan Harris-Riggs, Jamie Lee.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4441422/

An effectively creepy spin on found-footage horror, “Hangman” finds a family unwittingly playing host to a malevolent intruder who’s broken into their home — and stayed there, unseen, while watching their every move on surveillance cameras he’s installed. Brit horror specialist Adam Mason’s latest may provide too abrupt a payoff for those genre fans expecting more standard bloody thrills. But the long buildup will strike others as sufficiently, distinctly unnerving, with its emphasis on violated privacy and the oblivious proximity of victims to a maniac practically underfoot. Though “Hangman” will rep a somewhat tricky sell, its surface similarities to home-invasion thrillers and “Paranormal Activity”-type pics should be exploitable enough for some theatrical exposure. As with other superior exercises in found-footage suspense, the feature’s impact will be considerably diminished on the smallscreen.

After a prologue showing the grim denouement of our antagonist’s usual m.o. in a prior family’s home, his camera p.o.v. captures the Millers unknowingly being “chosen” in an airport parking garage. As they go on vacation, the perp (Eric Michael Cole, his seldom-glimpsed reflection usually obscured by face stocking) steals their car, uses its GPS to locate their Los Angeles house, and makes himself at home.

When they return two weeks later, he’s made no attempt to hide his stay — the place has been conspicuously messed about, and an ominous “hanging man” stick figure drawn in ketchup on a bathroom wall. But nothing has apparently been stolen. The police dismiss it all as a prank, or a homeless person seeking temporary shelter. Neither they nor the Millers notice the tiny remote-controlled cameras their visitor has secreted all over the house, let alone the crawlspace operations center he’s created for himself in the attic.

Unease at having their home broken into doesn’t go away, largely because the “guest” keeps leaving nagging signs of his continued residence that the family members automatically, optimistically blame on each other’s carelessness or snooping. He also does more insidious things, like following petulant teen Melanie (Ryan Simpkins) on a date, or putting scary thoughts in the head of young Max (Ty Simpkins) as nocturnal visitor “Jimmy,” whom the boy and his parents think is just a recurrent dream figure. Most deviously, he toys with the family’s psychology by pitting them against each other, whether by making sure Melanie’s hidden bad report card lands on her parents’ bed, or eventually planting “evidence” convincing wife Beth (Kate Ashfield) that her husband, Miles (Jeremy Sisto, also producer and co-editor), is cheating on her.

Using these and other means to ratchet up tension in the home — which he continually watches unfold from his hidey-hole on monitors — the intruder also continually risks discovery, seemingly daring the Millers to trigger that moment when his secret occupancy turns into a full-on bloodbath. Some of the most unnerving sequences here are ones in which Jimmy stands just outside the sightline of the oblivious Millers, his detection (and their lives) hanging by a thread that will break if they simply turn around at the wrong moment.

All this is very credibly and cleverly worked out by Mason and his usual writing partner Simon Boyes. D.p. Tobias Deml’s approximation of a technically sophisticated amateur’s multicamera coverage, as well as the helmer and marquee star’s editing, rise to a conceptual challenge in making this found-footage “Funny Games” equal parts convincing and chilling. Performances are effectively natural, tech/design contributions all very good while necessarily unobtrusive.

SXSW Film Review: 'Hangman'

Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Midnighters), March 15, 2015. Running time: 85 MIN.

Production: An Adam Mason production. Produced by Jeremy Sisto, Mason, Simon Boyes, Mary Church. Co-producers, Matt Kaplan, Robyn Marshall, Stefan Sonnenfield.

Crew: Directed by Adam Mason. Screenplay, Mason, Simon Boyes. Camera (color, HD), Tobias Deml; editors, Mason, Jeremy Sisto; music, Antoni Maiovviv; sound, Ben Forman; sound designer, Julian Slater.

With: Jeremy Sisto, Kate Ashfield, Ty Simpkins, Ryan Simpkins, Eric Michael Cole, Amy Smart, Ross Partridge, Vince Ventresca, Bruno Acalinas, Ethan Harris-Riggs, Jamie Lee.

More Film

  • David Picker dead

    David Picker, Studio Chief Who Acquired James Bond Novels for UA, Dies at 87

    David Picker, who headed United Artists, Paramount and Columbia’s motion picture divisions and was known for forging relationships with groundbreaking filmmakers and material, died Saturday in New York. He was 87 and had been suffering from colon cancer. MGM tweeted, “We are saddened to hear that a member of the United Artists family has passed [...]

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Bob Iger's $65 Million Compensation 'Insane'

    Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger’s total compensation for Disney’s fiscal 2018 was a whopping $65.6 million. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, calls that sum “insane.”  While speaking at the Fast Company Impact Council, the filmmaker and philanthropist insisted that this level of corporate payout has a “corrosive effect on society.” Disney took [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International

    'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International Box Office With $30 Million

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” led the way at the international box office, summoning $30 million when it opened in 71 foreign markets. The supernatural thriller collected $26.5 million in North America for a global start of $56.5 million. “La Llorona,” based on the Mexican folklore about the Weeping Woman, [...]

  • Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona'

    Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona' Wins Worst Easter Weekend in Over a Decade

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” ascended to the top of domestic box office charts, conjuring $26.5 million when it opened in 3,372 North American theaters. “La Llorona” is the latest horror movie to outperform expectations, further cementing the genre as one of the most reliable box office draws. Even so, [...]

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content