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The Hanged Girl (2023) Review

The Hanged Girl was initially shot, and released in some countries as The Haunting at Saint Joseph’s, something writer/director Jon Cohen should be used to as his 2009 exercise in torture porn, The 7th Hunt was retitled and rereleased in 2021 as The Hunt.

However, this is an entirely different type of film, opening in the 1800s during a smallpox epidemic. A young woman goes to a convent hoping to find help for her village. Instead, she’s hung as a witch, her spirit still said to haunt the area. Although I suspect it’s the sisters who are practising the dark arts as they have nylon rope a hundred or so years before it was invented.

In the present, Dr. Lily Khan (Tal Hymans, The Reckoning, I Am Woman) is having a rough day. Not only did she have to deal with a patient on her floor suddenly going critical, but she also had to do it while the girl’s mother was trying to pull her away. Apparently, her headscarf was proof she was going to kill, not cure her, patient.

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But she has better things to look forward to. She and her fiancé Kit (Alec Snow, Home and Away), who is also a doctor, are about to be married and then emigrate from Australia to England. And this weekend they’re going on a last outing with some friends and Kit’s sister Rachel (Tara Jay, 1500 Steps, The Gauntlet) whom Lily hasn’t met yet. And if you guessed their destination is the location of the hanging, the convent we saw in the prologue is now a “haunted hotel”, you would be correct.

There’s a nicely done sequence in a dark graveyard and chapel that felt like an homage to The Blind Dead films, but apart from that, the first part of The Hanged Girl rarely gets any creepier than some strange noises that may or may not be people trying to scare each other.  What does have a sinister feel to it is the way Rachel’s attitude changes. At first, she seems OK, if a bit gruff and protective of her brother. But it’s not long until she’s openly hostile towards Lily and her religious beliefs.

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I kept expecting that to escalate into something more, but it’s left to simmer, giving the proceedings tension but no actual conflict. Then Lily starts having nightmares of a woman with a noose around her neck and their friend Fiona (Melissa Brattoni, Risen, Skinford: Chapter Two) bleeding from a stab wound. At this point, I expected things to pick up, but this too is left to simmer.

There’s a reason for that, The Hanged Girl isn’t the film it’s advertised as. It isn’t bad for what it actually is, but if you’re expecting a film about a vengeance-seeking ghost, you’re going to be severely disappointed. Notice I didn’t say if you’re expecting a horror film you’ll be disappointed, because where the story does go is pretty horrific, but not in the way the film’s promotion leads you to believe.

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Unfortunately, that hinges on a couple of major coincidences, the kind that don’t happen except in films like The Hanged Girl. That takes some of the impact out of the final act, but it still has some moments that will get under your skin. A mid-credit scene tries to cast some doubt as to the cause of it, but it feels very unconvincing and tacked on.

Taken as a work that’s on the line between psychological horror and dark drama, The Hanged Girl isn’t anything special, but it makes for an acceptable watch. If you want ghosts, you may be disappointed, but we know the worst evil comes from the living, not the dead.

Uncork’d Entertainment will release The Hanged Girl on DVD as well as Digital Platforms on September 5th.

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