Home Page > Movies Index (w/mixed oldies) > > Movie Review

This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Woke Yokels, Comatose Kids, and Puzzled Police

Hangman's Curse on IMDb

Plot Overview

boy at windowRogers High student Abel Frye (George Humphreys) had his mother run off with a truck driver, his father drink him­self to death, and his only friend die of meningitis. Being the recipient of relentless bullying as well, he went and hanged him­self in an upper room of the school. We see him ascend to his destiny with his belt skipping a loop, and his hands tying the rope off with a half hitch. The dork had lived a weak life, died the same, and left behind a ghost of remembrance who gets blamed for the psychotic episodes of hapless jocks ten years later.

harlotThe police don't buy the supernatural explanation and send in a crack under­cover, family team to infiltrate the school and get to the bottom of it. Eighteen-year-old Elisha (Leighton Meester) is the daughter targeting the popular girls who are likely to get jealous of this blue-eyed beauty. Her father Nathaniel “Nate” Springfield (David Keith) with his blue eyes, strong jaw, Roman nose, dimpled chin, and rugged good looks is too hand­some for the janitor role he plays, but they cover for him saying “it's a long story.” The brown-eyed mother Sarah (Mel Harris) being the brains of the family plays a school counselor, and her brown-eyed son Elijah (Douglas Smith) infiltrates the nerds. Note: they all have Bible names.

integrated poolThe twins trip over the same (unquoted) Bible verse, (Prov. 27:7) “The full soul loatheth an honey­comb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.” Elijah who just turned 18 forbears an opportunity to drive as he'd opted for FBI martial arts training in lieu of driver's ed. Elisha lacking social opportunities on account of her job moving her around is delighted by unwelcome advances from black jock Blake Hornsby—a rake with horns—(Edwin Hodge.) The other girls sensing her interest pretend Blake is hot stuff not a status-killer. Her parents let it slide by comparing this one handsome fellow to her good-looking dad. The camera is not so kind with its closeups of Blake's Negroid lips puffed out by his mouth insert, his flared nostrils framed by his face guard, his black skin contrasted to the fair skin of the Goths with black decorations, his kinky hair under his helmet, and his monkey profile seen when he takes his helmet off. This disconnect between visuals and script came about by casting a natural, Frank Peretti as eccentric Dr. Algernon Wheeling who cares not a whit about his appearance both in real life and in his role. Away from the camera he lives as a recluse writing novels. He wrote the novel on which this film is based and collaborated in its production, for whom “the visuals either match or exceed what I saw in my head when I wrote the book.” The eye is very forgiving, his more than most in this matter.

The plot thickens in the Biology lab where Elisha, of a borderline nontraditional family, examines the exotic animal collection of teaching assistant Norman Bloom (Daniel Farber.) It's a veritable Noah's ark. For that matter there's even a mystery woman, the mother of Ham in the Genesis account of the Flood. (Gen. 9:18-19) “And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.” Let's look again at Noah's story (Jasher 5:14-17):

And the Lord said unto Noah, Take unto thee a wife, and beget children, for I have seen thee righteous before me in this generation. And thou shalt raise up seed, and thy children with thee, in the midst of the earth; and Noah went and took a wife, and he chose Naamah the daughter of Enoch, and she was five hundred and eighty years old. And Noah was four hundred and ninety-eight years old, when he took Naamah for a wife. And Naamah conceived and bare a son, and he called his name Japheth, saying, God has enlarged me in the earth; and she conceived again and bare a son, and he called his name Shem, saying, God has made me a remnant, to raise up seed in the midst of the earth.

Shem and Japheth were full brothers, Ham was born at a later date (the youngest, see Gen. 9:24) perhaps from a different mother. Noah's wife was older than he was. Perhaps at 580+ years she was no longer able to bear children after the first two. She didn't have any more after the flood, even though it was a time to repopulate the earth. Maybe she stopped bearing before the flood. Ham could then have been step­brother of the other two.

Researcher Mark DeWayne Combs posits that, “Although Jasher specific­ally references the births of Japheth and Shem, there is no such reference to the birth of Ham. … that Ham may have been much younger than his brothers and that he may have had a different mother” (389). Combs also observes, “Fathering a child, particularly a son, through a hand­maiden or servant girl would not have been an uncommon or forbidden practice in that time period” (165). Historian Kenneth M. Stampp remarks that “Apologists for slavery traced the history of servitude back to the dawn of civilization and showed that it had always existed in some form until their own day” (14).


3 at desksforbidden book

We really get down to the nitty gritty in Social Studies when Mr. Carlson brings up the topic, “You can't pray in school.” He gets some push back from students who want to claim their own personal moralities, then some object to terrorist moralities based on their religion (“No, you don't under­stand. It's not wrong. It's justified.”) To be sure, in a public school setting we are not going to see the Bible used to sort out bullying and its after­math, but the drama of Elisha and her new boy­friend Blake has gone off the reservation to where the word of God is fair game for her Christian family to consult. And it does contain one pertinent example: of Noah in his vulnerability being bullied by an opportunistic son.

plowingFor those not settled in the sands of time, I offer this remedial history lesson, with apologies to those who don't need it. The biblical story is widely known of Adam & Eve's temptation and fall in the Garden of Eden, how the woman ate the forbidden fruit and gave it to her husband to eat (Gen. 3:6), God responding by increasing the severity of the woman's child­birth pains (Gen. 3:16) and making man's toil onerous (Gen. 3:17-19.) What is less well known—except in places like the Bible Belt—is a redo of sorts to ameliorate man's difficult labor. Noah's father Lamech had (Gen. 5:29) “called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.” They still had to follow the earlier template to get a reprieve. Instead of the forbidden tree to be respected by the first couple, there was old man Noah whose work break was to be respected by his three sons. (Gen. 6:10) “And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” They formed them­selves into two pairs: the eldest Shem & Japheth, and the youngest Ham paired with his own son Canaan making the numbers even.

Come the deluge and the ark's passengers could well be a model for, (James 5:13) “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.” There was undoubtedly a lot of distress on their voyage occasioning a lot of prayer, and their eventual land­fall would have been accompanied by much celebration.

When (Jasher 6:40-41) “they all went out from the ark, they went and returned every one to his way and to his place, and Noah and his sons dwelt in the land.” They'd been cooped up together, so now they spread out some­what according to some prees­tab­­lished pecking order. God (Jasher 6:42) “said unto them, Be fruitful and fill all the earth; become strong.” To become strong meant, among other things, taking their needed medication when sick, along the lines of, (James 5:14) “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Children are always getting sick. Here it seemed to be Canaan's turn whose elders would have been his father Ham and grand­father Noah. Oil in Bible times was a medication as was, (1Tim. 5:23) “Drink[ing] no longer water, but [to] use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.” Grapes grow in the summer, but once they're fermented, the wine can be stored. Noah got into the store to set the example for a work break, establishing period(s) of rest from hard work per Lamech's saying. By chance or design it interfered—it had to incon­venience some­one—with Ham's youngest son Canaan's need, and Ham could well have been the low-status brother from another mother.

Instead of the wily serpent we had Noah's wife as an on-the-spot influencer, who since she isn't mentioned, did well incurring no rebuke. She would have made her­self scarce giving Noah some space to relax when he started drinking. Being a virtuous woman (Prov. 31:27) “She looketh well to the ways of her house­hold, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” She wouldn't have let grass grow under her feet but would have gone to visit Ham to make adjustments regarding their diminished store of medicinal alcohol, to advise him to water down the supply of old wine, or what­ever. Ham showed up shortly there­after to check it out. He fell to temptation by mocking his dad to his two brothers, but they would have none of it. This is parallel to Eve earlier failing first then offering the fruit to Adam who accepted it, but here the older brothers did not go along with Ham, so we'd expect them to receive a blessing rather than a curse such as it was. The distribution of labor had to be readjusted on account of the new workers' holiday(s,) and Ham for his insolence left him­self and his family line open to taking up the slack. Depicted below is that scene rendered in a Civil War vintage wood­cut, made after a drawing by Julius Schnorr von Carols­feld (German painter, 1794–1872) from his archive, published in 1877.

drunken Noah and his three sons

The alternate image text by licensor iStock.com/Getty Images explains what happened here to Noah and his fermented grapes: “When he drank some of the wine, he got drunk and uncovered him­self inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father's nakedness and told his two brothers who were out­side. Shem and Japheth took a garment and placed it on their shoulders. Then they walked in back­wards and covered up their father's nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so they did not see their father's nakedness (Genesis 9:21-23).” They covered the old man to prevent him from catching a chill as it was no longer summer.

Ham had put himself in jeopardy according to, (Prov. 30:17) “The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.” Especially pertinent in this case is Noah's control over the animals including the raven (Gen. 8:7) although Proverbs often gives general principles rather than specific results. Never­the­less, there is precedent when some kids mocked a man of God for not having a covering of hair on his head and they got mauled by beasts. (2Kings 2:23-24) “And … as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.”

eye trimThere's a parity of eye loss and servitude given in (Exodus 21:26) “And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye's sake.” Ham and his line—represented by Canaan in his lineage—could be given servitude rather than mutilation. This would be in keeping with the sentiment of Job in, (Job 31:7-8) “If my step hath turned out of the way, and mine heart walked after mine eyes, and if any blot hath cleaved to mine hands; Then let me sow, and let another eat; yea, let my off­spring be rooted out.” In that woodcut-derived picture above we see Ham after disregarding his mom's caution, checking up on his dad, getting carried away by an eyeful of the dishabille inebriate, and gesturing with his hands to his brothers. If he were to “sow, and another eat” and his “off­spring be rooted out,” that would mean him becoming a slave and his off­spring being carried away in slavery. Okay.

The Bible's account leans towards the latter. (Gen. 9:24-27) “And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son [Ham] had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.” When Noah woke up, he blessed as a pair the lines of his two respectful sons and cursed Ham's line­—pairing Ham with his youngest son Canaan as was Noah's wont, dealing by twos—giving them servitude to his other two sons'. (Jasher 73:35) “For the Lord our God gave Ham the son of Noah, and his children and all his seed, as slaves to the children of Shem and to the children of Japheth, and unto their seed after them for slaves, forever.”

Ham's youngest son Canaan is the particularly noted recipient of the punishment. Later when the Israelis invaded the promised land, the Canaanites were due for destruction, but the Gibeonite branch (the Hivites of Joshua 11:19 & Gen. 10:15-17) did a deal with Joshua the Jewish leader. They'd heard what happened to other Canaanite tribes, so they sent ambassadors dressed as if they'd come from a long journey (Joshua 9:3-6) and persuaded Joshua to make a league with this distant tribe. When it was discovered they'd tricked Joshua into sparing them, (Joshua 9:24-27) he made them bond­men, which was more to their liking. If this trick is indicative of the character of the original Canaan, he might well have been malingering to get out of his chores, which would also help explain Noah's hesitation to coddle him with the wine. And when it came time to deal with the sin, it affected the whole line of Ham.

More germane to modern times is perhaps the lineage of Cush, Ham's oldest son (Gen. 10:6,) Cush meaning black in Hebrew, having settled in Africa, some to become in later years African-American slaves. Researcher Bodie Hodge confirms that, “As a general trend, Ham is the father of many peoples in Africa” (122). Dr. Ide adds, “Ham sired four sons: Cush (translates as ‘black’) … and Canaan the youngest” (62).

Getting back to the biology lab Norman laments, “It went all wrong. I didn't plan on having all these hybrids.” Drawing a lesson from nature—not to mention the Bible—we may find draw­backs in miscegenation.

Production Values

” was directed by Rafal Zielinski. It's an adaptation of the book, Hangman's Curse by Christian author Frank Peretti. Its screenplay was written by Kathy Mackel & Stan Foster. It stars David Keith, Mel Harris, Leighton Meester, Edwin Hodge, William R. Moses, Daniel Farber and Margaret Travolta. These inexperienced actors gave it their best, and Andrea Morris playing suffering Goth Crystal could hold her own in most any troupe. The casting here, however, was generally slipshod.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for elements of violence/terror and for brief drug material. It had no gory, slasher scenes, no nudity and no profanity, yet for its noose display on the menu screen, it's been banned in my town. Go figure. The dog was cute and the female lead's skirt revealing. The direction and editing were strong. It was filmed at Rogers High School in Spokane, Washington. It's 1¾ hours long. It had limited theatrical release.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

mischievous boy w/slingBetter is the devil you know than the devil you don't know. We at least know how to process unsavory movies that are the norm these days. Here we don't have to. But after the black boy­friend has made objectionable advances to the inexperienced, Christian girl, embarrassed her before her brother by saying a jive grace calling her “hot,” participated in bullying that the “janitor” witnessed and for which the police intervened starting with the black guy, eschewed religion, and is tagged with a devilish name, all Elisha's mom can say is, “he seems like a nice young man.” I think she was being altogether too polite. Elisha's dad was “cool” about him, but the FBI that requires a squeaky clean record in its recruits probably won't be if he tries to join their team. Maybe she can join his.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Three stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Print. Software.

The Book of Jasher. Trans­lated from the Hebrew into English (1840). Photo litho­graphic reprint of exact edition published by J.H. Parry & Co., Salt Lake City: 1887. Muskogee, OK: Artisan Pub., 1988. Print, Web.

Combs, Mark DeWayne. End the Beginning. USA: Splinter in the Mind's Eye Pub., 2014. Print.

Hodge, Bodie. Tower of Babel: The Cultural History of Our Ancestors. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Pub., 2013. Print.

Ide, Arthur Frederick. Noah & the Ark: The Influence of Sex, Homo­phobia and Hetero­sexism in the Flood Story and its Writing. Las Colinas: Monument Press, 1992. Print.

Stampp, Kenneth M., Professor of American History at the University of California (Berkeley).
   The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South. Vintage Books, 1955. Print.