The found footage revolution made horror movies even cheaper to produce. The toll they take on the genre can't be measured in dollars and cents.
Consider the terrific performances in 2014’s “The Taking of Deborah Logan,” a movie burdened by the found footage prism.
Now we have “Hangman,” another credible, creepy film that would be infinitely better with traditional camera work.
“Hangman,” out Feb. 9 on Blu-ray, follows a sicko who infiltrates a family’s home … and doesn’t leave. The execution is as slick as that conceit. Only those shaky camera moments keep dragging us out of the story.
Jeremy Sisto and Kate Ashfield star as Aaron and Beth Miller, happily married parents returning home from vacation. What they don’t know is a masked stranger invaded their house while they were gone. And he’s not leaving. He’s set video cameras in key places around the house to spy on them.
This is more than simple voyeurism.
The intruder starts pulling emotional strings on the clan. He moves objects around the house to instigate fights and arouse suspicions. But what are his real motives?
“Hangman” does what many found footage films struggle to achieve. It forgoes the lazy, mumbling dialogue for real conversations. The Millers are more than just a band of potential victims. They feel like a real family, from the way Aaron dotes on his wife to the squabbling children and their appropriate self-interests.
Rather than cast unknowns, director Adam Mason chose veteran actors to flesh out the story. Even the children have serious resumes, including Ty Simpkins (“Jurassic World,” “Iron Man 3”).
The film’s obligatory violence comes in brief, dizzying bursts. And while the cast can’t resist their dopey horror movie moments, their actions are more often credible than not.
DID YOU KNOW: Jeremy Sisto says his “rolling with the homies” moment from “Clueless” happened as a last-minute decision. Now, it’s one of many scenes cherished by the film’s fan base.
So why would anyone use found footage tricks to gin up the scares? The stationary cameras installed by the intruder make sense. Having him videotape every single move he makes beggars belief.
What’s far more unnerving is the intruder’s self-doubts. At times he rages for no apparent reason or bursts into tears. He’s genuinely unstable in ways that make us unsure what he’ll do next.
That brings some excitement even to still camera shots that hearken back to the “Paranormal Activity” franchise, “Hangman’s” second cousin.
“Hangman” wraps in a tidy 85 minutes, and you won’t expect how it all plays out. What’s clear is how much scarier it might have been without such a convoluted storytelling format.