The Hangman's Curse

"Good"

The Hangman's Curse Review


According to The Hangman's Curse, there are select citizens secretly commissioned by the government to investigate strange mysteries, crimes, and unusual occurrences across America. Working undercover, these people are known as The Veritas Project (Veritas is Latin for truth).

The Hangman's Curse, which is based on a novel by Frank Peretti, opens as Abel Frye--a troubled student in small town Washington state--hangs himself in the dark corridors of Rogers High School. Apparently Abel's peers teased him to the point where he didn't want to live any longer.

The film cuts to ten years later. It's a beautiful, sunny day. A football game rages on Rogers High School athletic field. Fans watch from the stands. Suddenly, a player becomes violently ill, sees a ghost, and then dies. Now, at most high schools this would be unusual--but not at Rogers High. This kind of thing happens all the time. In fact, it's becoming so frequent, the government decides to call upon the Springfields, a family that is part of The Veritas Project.

The Springfields work together to get to the bottom of the mysteries at Rogers High School. Sarah (Mel Harris), the mother, investigates the scientific side of the calamities; Nate (David Keith), the father, poses as the school custodian; and their teenager children, twins Elisha and Elijah (Leighton Meester and Douglas Smith), merge their way into the social groups of the school. With the help of an eccentric professor (horrendously played by author Frank Peretti), they undercover suspicious geeks, callused coaches, evil witchcraft, legendary ghosts, ghastly graffiti, and a few $50 bills that are laced with a crystalline substance, all which appear to be connected to Abel Frye's death ten years earlier.

Unless you suspend all rationality, The Hangman's Curse makes little sense. In the logical world, after a series of suspicious deaths, any high school would be shuttered until authorities said it was safe for the students to return. Yet, the folks at Rogers High don't cancel a single day of class, despite the fact that students are dropping dead left and right. And, after ten years, wouldn't someone have removed the rope that Abel used to kill himself? Since the rope is still hanging from the high school ceiling--I guess not. And does anyone else find it odd that the walls in Rogers High School contain miles of pipelines large enough for a full sized teenager to crawl through?

Although it's intellectually stupid, The Hangman's Curse does have more wisdom than most teen thrillers. The film has a certain respect for its characters; they are not mindless puppets of the plot, and seem to have an understanding of how friendship is different than love, love is different than sex, and relationships and friendships are developed through a process. Most teen films don't even bother to develop characters, let alone relationships. These characters feel like genuine people. I actually wanted to get to know them--now there's a novelty.

Furthermore, The Hangman's Curse gets kudos for taking the ultimate risk: it allows its characters to demonstrate Christian values. But this isn't another fanatical Left Behind franchise. The film might exemplify Christian values, but it isn't evangelical. It has enough Christian flavor to make a point, but it never becomes a sermon or a homily. Religion isn't the subject of the film, and director Rafal Zielinski (Fun, Screwballs) doesn't allow it to overwhelm the movie.

But the refreshing, family-friendly values do have a downside: They seem to prevent the film from getting itself dirty and taking risks. The movie thinks its audience is primarily Christian; therefore, it wants to stay inside a "comfort zone" and avoid violence, bloodshed, and scariness. Now, I suppose that's good if you're making a family film, but this is supposed to be a horror movie. Because it never leaves its comfort zone, The Hangman's Curse is about as scary as watching Cookie Monster stroll down Sesame Street. There are a few decent surprises at the end, but even those are more interesting than they are frightening.

With its sweet, earnest quality, I really wanted to like The Hangman's Curse--but it's sweet and earnest when it should be scary and suspenseful. For a Christian horror film to work, it needs to find a happy medium in exemplifying Christian values while still offering thrills and chills. The Hangman's Curse doesn't have the balls to do that. But it is a noble effort. It's the first film adaptation of Frank Peretti's work, and I hope it is not the last.

The DVD features two bonus featurettes including "Frank Peretti: From Page to Screen" that interviews Peretti and the filmmakers about the making of the movie, and "The Spider Wrangler: The Spiders of the Hangman's Curse" that showcases a behind-the-scenes look at the unique use of spiders in the film.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Rafal Zielinski

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.