‘The Hangman’ Review: A Good Lead Performance Outshines an Unfocused Narrative

The Hangman is supported by a fun-to-watch lead actor in LeJon Woods, but the rest of the movie can’t keep up with its star.

The Hangman began streaming in the United States on June 4, 2024.

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What is The Hangman About?

LeJon Woods stars as Leon in The Hangman (2024).
Leon’s plans for a serene camping trip are ruined by demon-worshiping criminals.

The Hangman is a crime thriller with supernatural elements about a father searching for his missing son.

Set in an isolated rural town, a father, Leon, takes his son Jesse on a camping trip. It is supposed to be a time for bonding between a father and son who have grown distant after a death in their family, but Leon discovers that Jesse is missing after their first night in the woods. Leon searches for help from the local townsfolk, but all he finds are racists, criminals, a portal to Hell, and a secret cult that is involved with a deadly entity known as The Hangman. So now, Leon has to arm himself and fight if he is to have any hope of finding his son.

Kaitlyn Lunardi as Billy in The Hangman (2024).
Kaitlyn Lunardi stands out as a good (yet one-dimensional) villain in The Hangman.

The Hangman was directed by Bruce Wemple. Wemple co-write the script with LeJon Woods, and Woods stars in the film as Leon. Leon’s son Jesse is played by Mar Cellus. The few friendly people Leon comes across in his search are played by Lindsey Dresbach (as Tara) and Daniel Martin Berkey (as Jedidiah). Opposed to Leon are characters played by William Shuman, Jefferson Cox, Rob Cardazone, Kaitlyn Lunardi, and Scott Callenberger as The Hangman himself.

The Hangman Review

Jesse and Leon stand together in the woods in The Hangman (2024).
Jesse and Leon are believable right from the start as a son and his father. It’s good that they make us care about them so quickly, because they’re separated for most of the movie.

The best reason to watch The Hangman is its star, LeJon Woods. Woods is incredibly charismatic and likable from the first moment he appears on screen. As a father who just wants to spend some quality time with his son, LeJon Woods plays that part of the character perfectly with heart and humor. Then, when Leon—who is not in any way a fighter at the start of the movie—is thrown into a life-or-death situation with criminals and demonic forces, it’s an absolute blast watching him as he goes from barely being able to hold a gun to confidently suiting up for war against a seemingly unstoppable foe.

Tara stands in front of Leon in The Hangman (2024).
One of Leon’s only allies is Tara (Lindsey Dresbach).

Where the movie falters is in its plot and how the story plays out. The trailer and imagery that sell the movie emphasize the monstrous Hangman and the film’s stronger moments of horror. However, for most of its run time, The Hangman is a crime thriller, and not even a particularly violent or engaging crime thriller. The audience watches as Leon searches for someone who has knowledge about where his son might be, but he just kind of stumbles through the first two-thirds of the movie. He’s not finding clues so much as he’s being handed clues by the criminals and racists who come after Leon because they think he knows more than he actually does.

The Hangman yells in The Hangman (2024).
The Hangman is kept at the periphery of the movie a lot of the time.

Since Leon is such a passive character for the first hour of the movie, it feels like we’re just waiting for something important to happen for much of that time. As mentioned above, Leon is fun to watch because LeJon Woods is a charismatic actor, but the character’s actions (and inaction) can be frustratingly mundane up until the final act of the movie. Once Leon takes charge, the horror picks up and The Hangman becomes a lot more entertaining.

The red light of Hell shines on Leon in The Hangman (2024).
Leon takes a look into the portal to Hell.

Unfortunately, the budget limits how effective the final act can be. There is a portal to Hell and a final battle between Leon and The Hangman, and they both come across as quite cheesy. It’s fine for a low-budget horror movie, but it’s also kind of comical at times which doesn’t always appear intentional. It really does seem like a story with good ideas that got muddled when trying to match those ideas to what could be reasonably accomplished and put on screen within a limited budget.

A silhouette of The Hangman in The Hangman (2024).
The Hangman looks pretty good most of the time.

Focusing more on The Hangman and his horrific acts, juxtaposed with Leon’s search for his son, might have made the movie more compelling. As it is, The Hangman lacks a strong focus. Themes of racism are present in The Hangman, but they feel more like a backdrop or a setting rather than a main point. There is also a parallel between two sets of fathers and sons, but that parallel is only briefly explored towards the end of the movie. The main theme of The Hangman might be forgiveness and the bonds of family, but that is also spread out too thinly across a large portion of the film. So, lots of good ideas, but focusing more strongly on one might have helped bring the movie together.

The Hangman Rating and recommendation

Leon is tied up in The Hangman (2024).

Star Rating: 2 out of 5

The Hangman has a good supernatural horror movie simmering just below the surface. There’s a cult made up of a racist backwoods drug ring, a portal to Hell, demonic possession, and even a blind oracle. But what we experience is more of a meandering crime thriller and mystery that only occasionally chooses to show us the true horrors of what is happening. The Hangman is recommended only as a way to see the very good lead performance from LeJon Woods. It’s also slightly recommended for the final act which involves fun and cheesy effects as Leon and The Hangman battle in a barn.

The Hangman is currently streaming on transactional VOD sites including Amazon Prime Video and Fandango at Home.

Further Reading

Meet The Author

Chris has a degree in film studies at Temple University’s campus in Tokyo, Japan. He is a renowned expert on horror cinema.