Just a Little Game of Hangman.
The Gallows, the most recent in the never-ending stream of found footage horror films, is almost like a beginners guide to horror movies. It features just about every horror movie cliché (except for gratuitous sex and gore), and with its bizarrely timed “jocks vs. nerds” storyline, seems like a definite throwback to 1980’s slasher movies. Unfortunately, it never really offers enough punch or originality to stand out from the pack.
The film begins with a camcorder recording of a high school play called The Gallows being performed in 1993. The star of the play, a young man named Charlie Grimille (Jesse Cross), is accidentally killed when the trap-door of the staged gallows trips. The movie then flash forwards 20 years to 2013 via a tape found by police (?), of an insufferable asshole named Ryan (Ryan Shoos), as he records his friend Reese (Reese Houser) in a new version of The Gallows. Apparently, in the town of Dick Cheese, Wyoming (probably not the actual name of the town featured in the movie), a good way to honor the dead is to perform the same macabre play that a former student died in. Way to go Dick Cheese.
As Ryan continues to film EVERYTHING he does (a really annoying habit of people who only exist in movies), the audience gets to see him pick on nerds, flirt with his girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford), pick on the nerds some more, give Reese shit for being in the play, and pick on some more nerds. I’ll give Ryan Shoos this; he plays a prick well. The believability that he and Reese are football players however is dubious at best. Their physiques don’t exactly scream linebacker, or even quarterback for that matter. Maybe that’s why Reese quit football to be in a play.
Eventually it is revealed that Reese is performing in The Gallows because he has a crush on the lead actress, Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown), whom Ryan and Cassidy can’t stand. You see, Pfeifer is unattractive and unworthy of Reese’s attention because she is a nerd (movie logic at its best). Ryan eventually convinces Reese, through ridiculously contrived reasons, that they need to break in to the school and sabotage the play. The pair of them, along with Cassidy, go in through a broken door that night and begin to dismantle the set. Through even more contrived reasons, Pfeifer shows up to the school as well and soon enough the terror begins.
About mid-way through The Gallows I began to realize that the film is not really intended for seasoned horror fans. It is rated R but barely earns it; it’s built on jump scares that you can see coming from a mile away. The girlfriend kept getting kicked by the high school age girls behind us due to the terror the film instilled in them. These girls also acted as if they had never been out in public before, so the kicking might have more to do with that. Either way, I determined that I am not the target audience for this movie, and that’s okay.
The bigger problem with The Gallows, one that has nothing to do with the audience, is a shoehorned twist that is not only unsatisfying, but also makes no real sense from any standpoint. I’m not sure at what point horror/ suspense movies in general decided that a twist is necessary for a pleasing story (The Sixth Sense maybe), but The Gallows has one of the dumbest twists I’ve been privy to in quite some time. I’m not going to spoil it, but it is almost The Village level absurd, and probably makes even less sense.
Although The Gallows didn’t really move me in a positive way, I feel as if everyone involved did a good job with what they were given. The film is written and directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing. Both of these guys are young and probably have much better films ahead of them, and the film’s problems mostly lie in the fact that it was found footage. It seems like it would have worked much better as a straight ahead slasher film, even at the low budget ($100,000) that it had. The costume that Charlie wears as the hangman is pretty creepy and there is decent atmosphere at times. The film just doesn’t do a good job of making the audience empathize or care for the characters, and it’s reliance on the big twist doesn’t do it any favors. The bottom-line is this; if you’re inexperienced with horror movies, you might like The Gallows. If you’re a big horror fan like me, there’s not a whole lot here you haven’t seen before-so tread carefully.
Until next time…