‘The Hangman’ Ending Explained: Did Leon Save Jesse From Damon?


Bruce Wemple’s The Hangman opens with an ominous scene where a bunch of hooded figures bring out a scarred and grotesque creature from what seems to be the depths of hell, followed by the gruesome deaths of a couple of drug peddlers. The narrative then shifts to a father-son duo, Leon and Jesse, camping in a quaint section of the Appalachian Mountains. Leon has apparently secured this spot because of a marketing deal with one of his clients, Tom. Jesse tries to learn more about Tom, but Leon says that they should just enjoy the greenery and have a few beers instead of getting into the nitty-gritty about how they’ve reached where they’ve reached. Later that night, Leon and Jesse get into a fight about the former’s involvement (or lack thereof) in Maya’s (Leon’s wife and Jesse’s mother’s) death, and since Leon is cagey about this particular topic, he ends up dismissing Jesse in a pretty rude fashion. The next day, Jesse is nowhere to be found, and their car has been tampered with. When Leon starts searching for Jesse, he realizes that he is in an area full of racists, which also happens to be haunted by the titular monster. Fearing for the life of his son, Leon moves heaven and earth to rescue Jesse and get the hell out of the racist hellhole. Does he succeed? Let’s find out.

Spoiler Alert

What Is The History Of The Hangman?

While trying to get help, Leon comes across two Confederate-flag-toting people, Billy and Scott. They try to kidnap him, but Leon escapes into the woods. Then he meets Kaine, who takes him to his shack with the promise of helping him locate his son. The alarm bells in Leon’s head go off when he sees a woman tied up in Kaine’s bedroom. He decides to hold Kaine at gunpoint when he hears him talking about “taking care” of Leon. He then frees Tara, the girl tied up in Kaine’s bedroom, who proceeds to kill Kaine. To return the favor, Tara takes Leon to Jedidiah, the local pastor, because she thinks he is the one who can help him find Jesse. After some initial hesitation, Jedidiah agrees to point Leon in the right direction. He starts by giving him a little history lesson about the cult of Baal and how they turned a poor and dying kid named Damon into the vessel of a demon. This entity developed a nearly insatiable thirst for pain and bloodshed, and he started stringing up his victims on trees. That’s how he got the name, The Hangman. In order to put a stop to his menace, the villagers (which included Jedidiah) apparently burned him. For 50 years, they got to live in peace (I don’t know what a racist person’s definition of peace is). But now, he has been raised from the underworld to wreak havoc once again.

What Does Tommy Want From Jesse?

So, the working theory is that the racist White people of the village, who stem from the cult of Baal, are huge fans of immortality. In order to live for all eternity, they’ve to sacrifice someone young so that they can become the vessel of the titular demon. That’s how they got Damon to become the Hangman. In addition to being young, the vessel’s soul has to be in immense pain. The death of Jesse’s mother, Maya, scarred the young boy, and those wounds were only aggravated by the fact that Leon didn’t want to talk about it. While posing as one of Leon’s clients, Tommy read up on his family history and came to the realization that Jesse was the perfect candidate for the role of the Hangman. He lured Leon and Jesse to the village, and now he intends to sacrifice the teen and ensure that his people live deliciously for the next 50 years. Billy initiates the transference process by luring the Hangman to Jesse. Leon realizes that he has to get to Jesse before he becomes the Hangman, and he has to reconcile with him so that the sadness in his soul is cleansed and he isn’t fit to become the Hangman anymore. Thankfully, Tara comes to Leon’s rescue. She kills Tommy and helps Leon escape. They regroup at her house, and while Tara hangs back, Leon decides to gear up and save his son from the pits of hell.

Did Leon save Jesse from Damon?

A flashback sequence in The Hangman informs the audience that Maya died at the hands of a robber. Leon encountered a racist guy who overheard the fact that Maya had inherited a lot of jewelry. So, he followed Leon home, barged into his house, and ordered Maya to give him the jewelry. Leon froze up and was unable to prevent his wife from getting killed. Of course, he blamed himself for the incident, but since he wasn’t honest about what happened that night, Jesse started to hate him for his indecisiveness. Since the present circumstances have pushed Leon to be proactive, he decides to own up to his mistakes and give it his all to save Jesse. Leon tackles Billy first near the pits of hell, from where the Hangman emerges. Although Leon gets the drop on Billy, she traps him and suspends him over the Hangman’s lair.

In The Hangman‘s ending, Leon manages to shoot an arrow into Billy’s eye, which causes her to fall into the fireplace. But, while tripping and stumbling, Billy presses the remote to the electric wire rope hoist pulley, which causes Leon to drop into hell. There, Leon witnesses the moment when Damon turned into the Hangman. He revisits the moment his wife died. And he hears Jesse being transformed by the Hangman. Despite being separated by the walls of hell, Leon manages to tell Jesse how much he loves him and how he is sorry for not talking to him about Maya’s death. This somehow prevents Jesse from becoming the Hangman. Leon proceeds to fight with the Hangman, and he defeats the monstrous entity by reminding him about the fact that he is Damon and then puncturing his heart with a cross that’s fitted with a knife. Damon is dragged away to hell, and he almost takes Leon with him. However, with the help of the remote-controlled pulley system, Leon makes it out of there alive and decides to get back home as soon as possible with Jesse.

Final Thoughts

Sacrificing human lives to a demon to gain wealth, immortality, or other kinds of boons isn’t a new concept in the horror genre. But using it to talk about racism and the undying nature of White supremacists is certainly interesting. That said, The Hangman’s exploration of this topic is so surface-level that it never manages to be impactful. On top of that, the titular demon isn’t very imposing. In fact, he doesn’t have a lot of screen time, thereby robbing him of the opportunity to attain any kind of iconic status. The overall filmmaking is pretty bad. Everything, from the editing to the sound design, is incredibly incompetent. The lighting choices are interesting, but the cinematography is quite shoddy. I can understand that the movie must’ve had some budgetary limitations. However, I don’t think filling your script with exposition-heavy scenes is a very smart way to hide the lack of resources. I mean, just look at Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead and what he and his team pulled off on a shoestring budget, and maybe learn a thing or two from them. The cast delivers committed performances. LeJon Woods, Lindsey Dresbach, and William Shuman are pretty effective in their respective roles. Kaitlyn Lunardi, though, is a cut above the rest, and I think she should’ve been the primary villain sitting at the center of the spider web, luring innocent tourists into the belly of the Hangman, and extending her lease on life. Is that reason enough to give the movie a watch? Sure, especially if you’re in the mood for some trashy genre fare.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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