Written by Kathy Mackel & Stan Foster, based on the novel by Frank Peretti
Directed by Rafal Zielinski
Starring David Keith, Mel Harris, Leighton Meester, Douglas Smith, Edwin Hodge
- Featurettes: “Frank Peretti: From Page to Screen,” “The Spider Wrangler: The Spiders of Hangman’s Curse“
- Theatrical trailer
Released by: Fox.
My Advice: Rent it for pre-teens.
[ad#longpost]The Springfields seem like the conventional nuclear family: mom, dad, two kids, and a dog. However they are really a crack undercover investigative team working with the Veritas Project. The Project looks into strange happenings that defy conventional explanations and works to get to the bottom of them, wherever they may lead. And that is what’s happening at Rogers High School. Three football players have suffered delusions and fallen into comas without any apparent medical explanation. The students all think the Goth clique have conjured the spirit of Able Frye who ten years ago hanged himself in the school to escape the abuse of the student body. While the parents, Sarah (Harris) and Nate (Keith), look for clues, the twins Elisha (Meester) and Elijah (Smith) get close to the suspects. Ian (Jake Richardson), the leader of the Goths, acts like he knows something, but could he really conjure up a vengeful spirit? Or is someone using the legend of Able Frye to cover up something even more devious? Will the Springfields be able to unravel the Hangman’s Curse?
While watching this, I could imagine the pitch given to producers, “It’s like The X-Files for the PAX Channel.” The author writes Christian-themed books and those values are evident. But they are presented with some subtlety so you don’t feel like it being shoved down your throat. And the main value being presented is “Do onto others as they would do onto you” or “Don’t treat people like crap.” So, of course, high school is the perfect environment to exhibit people treating each other like crap. Even while both sides of the conflict, popular girls and jocks vs. Goths and nerds, aren’t presented as exclusively good or evil, they are grossly oversimplified. In fact all the characters, while not stereotypical, are rather simple. So while the actors do a good enough job in their roles never really get a chance to actually act.
The plot isn’t too complex either. Most of us, who have had a lifetime diet of red herrings, plot twists, and surprise endings can probably guess ahead and determine whodunit. But this movie isn’t made for jaded media junkies like us. It’s for kids who are still working on Encyclopedia Brown and Goosebumps. And judged in that context, it is a cut above the rest. The method that “Able Frye” uses to strike his victims down is fairly ingenious and there are a few shocks and scares experienced along the way. Although this isn’t a great thriller, it can entertain your pre-teen for a couple of hours.
We have two featurettes on this disc. “Frank Peretti: From Page to Screen” is the usual behind the scenes documentary where everyone raves about the production and everyone involved in it. Having the author, usually ignored after the contract is signed, featured prominently is a little different. He comes off more as clinically manic than genuinely excited and he is tiresome in both the movie (where he has a role) and the featurette. The other featurette, which deals with the spiders in the film, is more interesting. For instance, different species of spiders have to audition like actors and different shifts of spiders are used to give the maximum energy on screen. We also see how several actors deal with their arachnid cast crawling all over them. Let’s just say the screams aren’t all acting.
At the end of the day, Hangman’s Curse is a good disc to keep the kids occupied and out of the liquor cabinet or your purse. But that’s about it.