Hangman begins with the Miller Family returning from vacation to find that their house has been broken into. Nothing appears to have been stolen, but someone broke into their house, slept on their beds, ate their food, and left a disturbing image hanging in a closet. Parents Aaron and Beth (Jeremy Sisto and Kate Ashfield) and their kids Marley and Max (Ryan Simpkins and Ty Simpkins) try their best to get back to normal life. But there is something strange still going on inside the house, and the family may not be as safe as they believe.
I suppose this could be considered a spoiler, but the secret is revealed pretty early on and is central to what this film does. It turns out that the home invader never really left the house, and installed a full surveillance system that allows him to watch the family from the attic. Why the family never searched the attic, especially given the fact that something was left hanging on the attic door when they first got back, is never substantially explained. Since the film is shot through the surveillance cameras of the titular invader, the whole film is presumably designed as a means of exploring the mind of the voyeur.
But it doesn’t really do that. It still treats the invader as an external threat, an agent of chaos in a seemingly normal home. He moves things around, drinks juice out of the jug late at night, and just generally messes with the family. This is presumably meant to be scary or at least disturbing, but it’s mostly just boring. For most of the film, the villain doesn’t really feel like a genuine threat. It’s never really clear what he’s really after. The film just makes him out to be crazy but also strangely patient. If he wants to do real harm to this family, he’s going about it in a needlessly complicated, roundabout way.
In spite of the theoretically intriguing perspective, the movie hardly does anything novel. In fact, it employs a lot of well-worn horror movie clichés. The villain has actually been in contact with the youngest kid, and actually tells him things. And because this kid is apparently very dumb, he is unable to discern that this mysterious figure isn’t some sort of dream. On their parts, the parents go through drama that is never resolved, and teenager Marley become to the rote sexualized morality of the genre. It isn’t very good.
And in the end, the film mostly writes off its big threat as a pervert. There really isn’t much more to it than that, which makes all the time spent watching this footage feel like a general waste of time. The found footage aesthetic once again means that the whole thing looks pretty terrible. Yet again, the method of shooting seems to be used as an excuse to not work as hard. The acting is serviceable, but ultimately pointless. The way the film is presented just doesn’t do any of these actors any favors. It hardly matters what they’re saying in any given scene.
Hangman asks a lot for its audience to buy into the premise. It just seems ridiculous that this family or the police wouldn’t search every nook and cranny of this home following the home invasion. But even if we put that aside, we’re left with a story from an interesting perspective that doesn’t really amount to anything. Does the film want us to relate to the villain? Is it trying to make the audience complicit in the voyeurism? Who knows? Those are intriguing possibilities, but the film doesn’t really do any of that. It just lets everything go to waste.