A stellar ending can’t make up for too many missteps in “The Hanged Girl”, resulting in an okay film that could have been great.
Initially released under the title The Haunting at St. Joseph’s, The Hanged Girl follows a group of medical students on holiday before a big wedding amongst our main characters, Kid and Lily, the latter also being forced to endure a getaway with her soon-to-be sister-in-law Rachel.
Because of her Muslim faith, Lily is immediately victimized by Rachel, a feeling only made worse by a growing darkness around the venue in which they’ve decided to stay, an ancient monastery known for hanging an innocent girl during plague times.
After recreating a human sacrifice to frighten Lily, the friends go about their vacation as normal.
Visions of the hanged girl begin to appear to Lily, causing panic attacks and asthma flare-ups. Tensions arise, and relationships are tested as Rachel desperately tries to tear Lily away from her brother. Tempers flare, and emotional outbursts begin to crop up in the group.
Suddenly and strangely, emotional control is impossible, and tragedy ensues.
Although technically classified as a horror film, I would say it is more of a character drama with a fifteen-minute outburst of craziness at the finale.
The pacing of this movie is very uneven, and horror elements seem to be lacking for the majority of it.
The beginning gave me feelings of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where we had a group of friends driving toward some cursed location. The scene was very cliche with classic dialogue such as, “Hey, do you know the place we’re staying at is haunted?” and even the classic hitchhiker.
Although the jumping-off point was nothing we hadn’t seen before, I thought it set the tone well while also establishing the characters and setting. I can forgive cliches as long as they set up something great.
From there, we have problems.
Lily, Kid, and Rachel are developed very well. We understand what they want and why they want it. The other characters, however — especially our hitchhiker, who stays with us for the duration of the movie for some reason — are nothing more than cardboard cutouts that suddenly jump to life at the climax when the plot needs them to be dynamic.
I have no problem with static characters, but the sudden importance of up to this point insignificant characters was very strange.
Hailey’s character was especially jarring.
The audience is given no input into her thoughts or feelings until the very end, when everybody starts dying, and by that point, it’s too late. Suddenly and without warning, we are introduced to deep feelings of jealousy and insecurities within her, and minutes later, she is dead. There may have been a way to pull this off, but this wasn’t it.
The ending was by far the strongest part of the movie, but it’s so much better that it feels like a completely different film.
The transitions are quick and choppy, ripping the audience out of the movie completely as the scene changes without warning.
Many interesting ideas wait until the end to manifest which I think is such a shame. Hailey’s jealousy of Lily gave sudden depth to the character, and it really should have been developed far earlier in the movie to prevent the sheer whiplash I felt watching it. It got so interesting, and then it was over.
Lack of build-up leads to a shoddy payoff.
The only through-line the movie seemed to have was the discrimination that Lily faced every day as a Muslim woman. Rachel uses her religious beliefs as the initial justification for her disdain. Lily being the “final girl” was a fitting end to her character, considering we were shown how she had experienced the feeling of being singled out in her daily life.
At the end of the day, I sit here disappointed.
The beginning of the movie showed definite promise, but it waited so long that whatever interest I had dissipated away. When the ending came, I was grateful that something scary was actually happening but was disappointed because it hadn’t done the leg work needed for satisfying payoffs.
The actors and actresses did a fine job, especially the three main characters, played by Tal Hymans (Lily), Tara Jay (Rachel), and Alex Snow (Kid), as well as Elke Hinrichsen, who played Jess.
Ultimately, however, a potentially promising film ends up squarely in the camp of just okay, and that’s a real shame.