Dir: Travis Cluff & Chris Lofing
Writer(s): Travis Cluff & Chris Lofing
Cast: Reese Mishier, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, and Cassidy Gifford
Synopsis: 20 years after a horrific accident during a small town school play, students at the school resurrect the failed show in a misguided attempt to honor the anniversary of the tragedy – but soon discover that some things are better left alone.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
I’ve mentioned it before, but I don’t feel comfortable reviewing horror movies. Not because I don’t like them, because I do, but because half of the fun of watching a horror movie is experience it and no matter what people tell you – myself included – that experience does need to be experienced and not told. Moreover, it’s harder to review a movie that you also didn’t like entirely. If I don’t review a movie on here it is for a few reasons. One, I feel like it needs to be experienced. Two, I don’t have time or Three, I don’t like. However, since I’ve skipped a few reviews on movie I’ve seen and never really posted a review to a movie I didn’t really enjoy, here’s my review of The Gallows. Don’t worry, it’s not going to be a complete bash.
The Gallows is shot in the found footage style so the movie opens up in an old video tape playing from 1993. The recording is from the high school play, “The Gallows” which ends in the accidental death of lead Charlie (Jesse Cross), as he’s being hanged in front of an audience and what we assume is his family. We jump forward to 2013, and the current students at the school somehow managed to convince the school board to revive the play in honor of Charlie.
We are introduced to our main characters from here. Reese (Reese Mishier), a former football player who is the lead in the show in the part that killed Charlie. Pfeifer, the leading lady of the play and the “theater girl”; Reese’s friend Ryan, who is a “joker” and the movies camera guy at the beginning of the movie, and Cassidy, Ryan’s cheerleader girlfriend. Reese is having a hard time getting into character and delivering his lines so Ryan gets the idea to ruin the set for the play the night before the play is set to, each means going in the middle of the night. Reese is reluctant, but eventually agrees and Cassidy tags along. While there they experience weird banging and then find Pfeifer. Of course, everything goes to hell.
It very clear from the drama club involved and some of the parents that Ryan “interviews” early in the movie that Charlie’s death has become something of an urban legend – the movie says it’s based in Nebraska – in terms of the school having weird things happen like; locked doors, weird noises, lights going on-and-off, etc. That already sets us up for what’s to come.
Thankfully, The Gallows is only 81 minutes long, because the movie doesn’t have a lot to offer. The movie is like your run-of-the-mill found footage movie. It follows the same beats and fake-out moments that we’ve seen in other movies with the same concept, but doesn’t do anything to make it their own. It does nothing to reinvigorate the subgenre and even with its “different” approach in terms of cameras, which could have been a good way to try some awesome stuff, all it does is make the process of watching the movie harder with overused aspects.
What made the movie harder to watch is the cast. The filmmakers probably tried to add something to them by making them use their real first names, but their delivering in lines is just bad. They clearly feel scripted and at some points the characters and the actors playing them feel wooden. The only expectation really is Pfeifer, who is by the default the best actor in the movie. Even worse than that, the characters are unlikable – especially Ryan. He doesn’t come off as funny or cool, he actually comes off as a dick and bad friend. Reese is conflicted, but you can tell with a scene at his house why he’s supposed to be distance, but that’s an excuse. Cassidy is just kind of there.
I will give The Gallows some credit. There are a few, and I do mean a few, cool and eerily shots that I really liked and worked well with the environment. One scene in particular worked really well with the lighting and the sudden visual that you know is coming, but when it happens it surprisingly works.
The execution of story, if that’s what you want to call it, is frustrating. Some of the setup never pays off, maybe to the fast pace and short runtime, but none of things that are supposed to be surprising work because of the weak story and the fact that it is so contained within itself and the characters. The Gallows has very brief moments of what could lead to great storytelling or even a cool moment, but then it takes it away and goes back to the genre’s tropes which make you angry because you want to see how that could be done.
My main problem with the found footage subgenre is that, most of them, are the same. Without getting too much into, The Gallows has what we’ve seen in other films before it. And if you’ve seen enough found footage movies, you’ll know what I’m talking about. You even forget about it, because it reminds us at the beginning and, of course, with the constant recording. But, the worse part is the rushed endings, which The Gallows suffers from.
All in all, The Gallows doesn’t bring anything new to the found footage subgenre. The few good visuals are far-and-between in what is a easily going to be a forgotten movie by the end of the month.
2 out of 5