The Gallows (2015)
★ / ★★★★
In 1993, a high school play turns into a tragedy when a freak accident involving a noose ends up killing a student named Charlie Grimille. Twenty years later, the very same play is being remade even though the memory of that night remains vivid. This time, the character that Charlie played is being portrayed by Reese (Reese Mishler), a football player who decides to take drama with the hopes of getting closer to a girl he likes (Pfeifer Brown). However, Reese’s acting skills is quite… limited. Reese’s best friend, Ryan (Ryan Shoos), has an idea: To break into the school the night before the play and vandalize the set so completely that there would be no choice but to cancel the event.
Written and directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing, “The Gallows” is a film so immensely unlikable and difficult to sit through, it is quite a feat for a viewer to stick with it all the way through. Despite being a horror flick, there is not one genuine scare to be had here; it is merely composed disjointed scenes where the handheld camera shakes relentlessly for about two-thirds of its running time. This film is a perfect example that found-footage films are quite easy to end up terribly wrong especially if there is a drought of creativity in the screenplay.
The character in charge of the camera is intolerable. Ryan’s commentaries about so-called drama nerds, ugly girls, and how drama class is lame and embarrassing have so much negativity and animosity that it ends up being offensive to listen to. There is a way to make a character who dislikes certain things about high school still be relatable or amusing. Here, the writers rely on snarky and mean comments—as if they have forgotten how it was like to be in high school.
This is a critical mistake because the holder of the camera is our conduit to the story being told. The character has a nasty habit of pointing out the flaws in everything and everyone he encounters. By allowing Ryan to have such an extremely negative view of the play and those around him, our attitude toward the overall aura of the material is affected. I got the impression that the filmmakers do not care for the story they choose to tell.
A lack of tension is death to horror movies. We are subjected to a lot of screaming, yelling, and shaking of the camera when something suddenly appears in the corner or when someone gets injured. As Alfred Hitchcock once said, “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” The screenplay does not understand or fails to put in the effort to tease the audience before going for the jugular.
“The Gallows” is cheap-looking, infested with clichés, and completely unmemorable. I would like to ask the filmmakers personally about their inspirations and why they chose to make the film. Because from what I could tell, they had no inspiration and the picture was made for the sole purpose of making money.
Lastly, its young cast are not given a real chance to showcase their talent. Mishler stands out but only because he has a face that can potentially make it onto bigger, better projects.