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Reviewed November 15th, 2001 by David Nusair


Making a bad movie about a serial killer is especially tough, since the genre itself is innately interesting. Movies like Se7en, Copycat, and The Bone Collector – all flicks about serial killers – work primarily due to three things: they have a strong main character (or characters, as in the case of Se7en), the mystery surrounding the identity of the killer is a challenging and interesting one, and the methods of murder utilized by the killer are creative and Rube Goldbergian in nature. Hangman features none of the above.

Lou Diamond Phillips stars as a burned-out detective (seriously, is there any other kind of movie detective?) who watched helplessly as a serial killer murdered a fellow officer and then committed suicide. Now, there’s a copycat on the loose, offing his victims by hanging them – but in the movie’s lamest twist, the killer offers Phillips a chance to save the potential prey by playing a game of hangman with him. If Phillips cannot guess the answer, the captured sap dies by hanging. Madchen Amick is along for the ride as a shrink the killer is fixated with, for reasons left unclear until the end.

Hangman is completely inept in so many ways. For one thing, the killings are so sporadic and so underwhelming, that it really becomes impossible to care one way or another whether or not Diamond’s gonna catch who is behind this. But the performances are decent – Amick, in particular, is an underrated actress whose probably best know for her role in the Stephen King flick, Sleepwalkers. Diamond plays his detective as the typical jaded and cynical cop that always shows up in these sorts of movies.

But the real problem here is the identity of the killer(s). It’s just not interesting. Their motive is laughable and their eventual downfall is pointless. And all these games they’ve set up for Diamond to play – the game of hangman – well, this is just a dumb idea to begin with.

Hangman is probably the worst serial killer movie to come along in ages. Skip it, unless you’ve really got a Dan Lauria (he was the dad in The Wonder Years) fixation.

Audio: Hangman is presented with a DD 5.1 soundtrack and it’s surprisingly effective. This is a movie that relies a lot on spooky ambient sounds and this track handles them all with ease. Though most of the dialogue remains in the front channels, the rear speakers do occasionally see some action. This audio track is far better than the movie deserved.

Video: Ditto the video transfer. This 1.85:1 anamorphically enhanced transfer is crisp and clean, with nary an artifact in sight. The low-budget is apparent, but the transfer cannot be faulted for any of the shortcomings regarding to the look of the movie

Extras: You get some trailers and that’s it. Hollow Man, Under Suspicion, Trois, and The Right Temptation.

Conclusion: Hangman just doesn’t work, no matter how you look at it. Don’t bother.


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