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Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/9/2016
All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/12/2016
You may have heard someone use the term "people-watching" and wondered if this is a real thing. Yes, it is. When I'm at the mall, the airport, or any other busy place, I find myself checking out the behavior of others. I don't consider myself a voyeur, but more of a sociologist, as I'm fascinated by what people do in public. (My wife, on the other hand, does not share this, so when I say, "Did you see that woman?", referring to someone doing something impossible to ignore, the response is typically, "What woman?") While I enjoy this practice in small doses, I can't imagine doing it all day. Or watching a movie about someone who does this all day. Which leads us to Hangman.
When Aaron (Jeremy Sisto) and Beth (Kate Ashfield) return home from vacation, along with their two children, Marley (Ryan Simpkins) and Max (Ty Simpkins), they discover that not only was their house broken into, but the person had been living there, eating their food and sleeping in their beds. Shaken, they clean the house and make plans to install a security system. Attempting to return things to normal, the family begins to notice some odd occurrences around the house, such as things being moved. Then, it begins to appear that someone has been going through personal items, which creates some distrust amongst the family members. Is this simple an after-effect from the crime, or is something else going on?
That synopsis was purposely written to make Hangman sound a little deeper and complex than it actually is. Why? So that we would have something to discuss, as the actual movie contains none of the mystery or intrigue at which the paragraph above hints. From the outset, we know exactly what is going on in the movie. The entire film is shot from the vantage point of the intruder's own video camera and the multiple cameras he subsequently installs around the house. He steals the family's car from the airport, uses the "Home" setting on the GPS to get to their house, and then essentially takes the property over using the surveillance equipment.
Once this premise is established, we are treated to about 80 minutes of watching the family fall apart as the intruder (Eric Michael Cole) wanders the house at night and creates mayhem by planting seeds of distrust amongst the family members. If this sounds the least bit interesting, what you're missing is the fact that we are treated to scene-after-scene of security camera footage of Beth cleaning the house or Aaron drinking orange juice or Marley talking on the phone. The movie is not in real time, but it certainly seems like it in some instances, as we literally sit and watch this family go about their daily lives. If the "Hangman" wants to do this, good for him, but I found it to be incredibly boring. The movie obviously wants us to be creeped out by the idea of someone observing us during our most vulnerable moments, but that notion is far more disturbing on paper than it is while watching someone walk through their own home.
The movie also asks us to suspend our disbelief and there are some major plotholes here, some due to the fact that we are only watching surveillance footage. We see that the intruder steals the family car from the airport and then goes to their house. Did he then return the car to the airport? The family never mentions their car having been stolen and they are truly shocked when they come home and find the house wrecked. There a couple of scenes where the intruder wanders the house during the day and stands very close to family members who don't seem to notice him. Really? The biggest insult here is the fact that the intruder appears to have constructed a video control room in the attic of the house, but when the police search it, they don't find anything. How does that work? Also, the intruder's motives don't really add up, as he goes from being a trickster to a killer.
Hangman is yet another movie which would have probably worked better if the director had not gone for the "found footage" approach. In theory, the surveillance video should bring us closer to the family, as it shows them in an intimate fashion. In reality, it distances us from them, as it nearly destroys any chance of character development and the things which we do get only serve to create a set of stereotypes. Director Adam Mason brought us the abysmalThe Devil's Chair and I see that in the near-decade since then, he has not improved. I'm actually more concerned as to why an established actor like Jeremy Sisto would appear in something like this, and due to the way in which the film was shot, I didn't even recognize Liz from Shaun of the Dead as Beth. Do yourself a favor -- Go people-watch at the mall. It will be more interesting than this movie.
Hangman is given too much rope on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Alchemy. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which run at an average of 28 Mbps. Keeping in mind that the entire film is shot from what are ostensibly webcams, the image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The picture is a bit dark at times, but the action is always visible and the colors look good. The level of detail is good in certain shots, while others are soft and the picture is decidedly flat at times. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects, although, given the aesthetic going on here, things are also muffled at times. The stereo effects are OK, but we don't get much in the way of outstanding surround or subwoofer effects here.
The Hangman Blu-ray Disc contains no special features.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long