As horror enthusiasts, what really scares us anymore? We’re not phased by much. But I’ll tell you what still scares the hell outta me: home invasions. As a grown ass man with a front door I have to double check at night, nothing turns my stomach as the thought of someone forcing themselves into my home and ruining my life. So good thing I watched Adam Mason’s Hangman, a fairly entertaining but ultimately underwhelming thriller.
Law & Order hunk Jeremy Sisto stars as patriarch Aaron, a middle class family man whose beautiful wife Beth (Kate Ashfield) is convinced that despite a seemingly harmless break-in, something isn’t right in their McMansion. Mason gives us a front row seat as the invader sets up cameras and stalks the ever loving hell out of Aaron’s family. We see their lives unfurl through the lens of the killer, which although technically found-footage, feels organic to the story more than most entries in the subgenre. There’s an intentional voyeuristic aspect of it all as we watch Aaron and Beth’s marriage begin to crumble under the pressure of their post-break-in insecurities. The killer is always watching them from his makeshift home theater he’s constructed in their attic and manipulating them in clever ways.
There are some genuinely unnerving scenes in Hangman. The killer hocks a loogie in the family’s orange juice and we see them drink it the next morning. Watching him scurry out of his hiding spot every time the family was out or asleep was a good, creepy image as well. But overall the moments meant to frighten fall flat. A major part of that is due to the fact that we really know nothing about the family. Since we don’t know anything about them, there’s no emotional resonance or suspense when they’re in danger. We should care, but how can we? The killer manipulates them to turn against each other all too easily and while it’s uncomfortable to watch them argue, it never really makes an impact on the viewer.
We see through the killer’s eyes for much of the film, which has been done successfully before (Franck Khalfoun’s recent Maniac remake comes to mind). Unfortunately Hangman’s killer, played by Eric Michael Cole, isn’t very interesting to hang out with. Every once in a while he sobs or hits himself so we know how he’s a tormented soul. My, what big inner demons you have! It’s all superficial though. I wish the killer did more wily shit like when he spit in their juice. Like if he used their toothbrushes to clean the toilet, that would’ve been more engaging than watching him whimper while jerking off in the attic.
Mason obviously knows how to craft a competent film. Hangman looks better than most found footage films. But the lack of characters to attach ourselves to, the drab killer, and the predictability really hamper what could’ve been an interesting little film.