Directed by: Travis Cluff & Chris Lofing.
Written by: Travis Cluff & Chris Lofing.
Starring: Reese Mishler (Reese Houser), Pfeifer Brown (Pfeifer Ross), Ryan Shoos (Ryan), Cassidy Gifford (Cassidy Spilker).
I have, at times, defended found footage horror movies – because even though many of them have become clichéd and silly, they are still capable of providing genuine scares. Most recently, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit was a legitimately scary horror film – and one that doesn’t use the found footage concept as an excuse for sloppy filmmaking. Yet, for every film like The Visit, that actually works, there is at least one like The Gallows – which does not. This is the type of movie that gives found footage horror films a bad name – it’s lazily written and shot, with bad acting and a poor overall concept. Worst of all, it provides zero actual scares. The film is only 81 minutes long – but its quite a dull slog.
The film is about Reese (Reese Mishler), a former high school football player who quit the team in order to join the school play. For reasons that make no sense whatsoever, the play they are putting on this year is the very same one the school put on 20 years ago – where a freak accident lead to one of the leads hanging themselves on stage and dying in front of everyone. Reese is a terrible actor – but he’s landed the lead role (somehow) – and his buddy, Ryan (Ryan Shoos) has no problem pointing out just how horrible an actor he is. And then Ryan finds out Reese’s secret – he has a crush of the production’s leading lady – Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown) – a typical drama nerd. Ryan knows Reese will humiliate himself if he goes on stage- but has an idea: they can sneak in and smash the set so the production has to be cancelled. Ryan’s girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford) tags along – and Pfeiffer shows up as well for unrelated reasons. But they cannot get very far into their plan – because they are not alone in the theater, and they also cannot get out. Someone wants to put them through precisely what that long dead star of the original production went through.
One of the first questions any found footage horror film has to answer is why would the people keep filming everything when their lives are in danger. The Gallows answers this in the most obvious way – the four teenagers need the light on the camera in order to see. At least, that’s how it begins – but as the film moves on, this becomes less and less plausible – especially when there are fewer and fewer of the teenagers left. Even less plausible is the twists and turns the movie takes – especially in its final act as it goes from silly to stupid.
There is not a moment in The Gallows that is original, nor at all scary. Horror movies need at least a bit of originality or novelty in order to scare you. When a film like The Gallows comes along, and doesn’t do anything the least bit original, it’s a dull experience watching it. The found footage genre isn’t to blame for a movie as bad as The Gallows – but movies like The Gallows are what give a perfectly fine genre like found footage a bad name.