[Review] THE HANGMAN – DREAD (Epic Pictures)- (2024)

You would think by now we would have all figured out – stay away from the woods, especially the deep dark woods of Appalachia – but some folks just refuse to be taught, and off into the wilderness they embark – no town in sight, no police force – just inbred creeps up to no good – and of course, a vengeful demon or two.

To reconnect with his son – Leon has planned a camping trip – a few days away from technology and the rigors of everyday life and hopefully, some quality time with his teenage son. Repair some damage done by – life. Leon isn’t a perfect man – but he’s a good man, and intends to prove it.

Things take a dark turn when after waking up Leon can’t find his son. He’s just gone – his tent is empty. A frantic Leon dives headlong into the forest – and into a nightmare, both real and supernatural.

THE HANGMAN treads a fine line between a supernatural “folk horror” tale and a gripping family drama and for me this film worked because of that family dynamic. LeJon Woods stars as Leon – and he handily carries this film on his back. As a co-writer LeJon was able to craft the character to a finely sharpened point – and that character resonates beautifully.

There are several truly uncomfortable moment in this film – the first being Leon’s run in with a group of yokels – actually a cult of inbreds who have resurrected THE HANGMAN – and he, panicked by the sudden disappearance of his son – finds himself in a very uncomfortable discussion with this gang of racist cult members. The scene is tense, uncomfortable, and well written. The horror here is of the human variety – always more disturbing then anything the supernatural can throw at you.

But – there is plenty of supernatural fun to go around. THE HANGMAN is a formanable advisary – this evil creep can throw ropes from out his body – we never see exactly where (probably a good thing) but once he is on the attack, you best have yourself something to cut with or else your ass is getting dragged away and thrown over a tree branch or any other surface high enough to cause your feet to dangle.

Once Leon suits up and goes into full attack mode – there is a particularly fun interaction between him, THE HANGMAN, and a chainsaw. It’s not anything we haven’t already seen but in the context of this film and in that moment – it’s a pretty fun ride none the less.

Director Bruce Wemple – who also co-wrote – knows what he’s looking for, his camera work is tight and precise and you can tell he’ worked with LeJon previously as he seems to take a “Sam Raimi” like glee in putting his star through hell – and the end result is as fun to watch as it looks like it was to film.

This is one of those films that you can sense the love, effort, and pride that was tapped to bring it to the fans and if for no other reason then that – this is one you should give a shot.

THE HANGMAN gets a limited theatrical run on May 31st but most of you will probably have an easier time finding it on VOD and that happens on June 4th on all the major VOD platforms.

Dave Dreher
Co-Founder / Lead News Reporter at Gruesome Magazine
Dave is co-founder and lead news reporter for Gruesome. Dave has built his resume working for Diabolique Magazine, The Horror Channel, Horrornews.net, House of Horrors and Creature Corner. He has worked with Tom Savini on his official site since 1997 and is also co-host of the popular podcast Horror News Radio.