Movie Review: “The Gallows”

Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Cassidy Gifford
Travis Cluff & Chris Lofing

“Here lies the found footage genre. It had a good run.” That might as well be the tagline for the new horror movie, “The Gallows,” because if the countless other found footage films suffocating the market didn’t already kill the genre, then surely this is the final nail in the coffin. Though the movie was bankrolled by Blumhouse Productions, which has made millions from micro-budgeted horror flicks like the “Insidious” and “Paranormal Activity” series, “The Gallows” is just the latest in a long line of amateurish junk that the studio has been cranking out for years. The benefit of making films on a small budget is that you only need a few hits to offset the losses on your many flops, and sadly, “The Gallows” is destined to fall into the latter category – yet another footnote in Blumhouse’s cinematic game of Russian roulette.

In 1993, Beatrice High School student Charlie Grimille was horrifically killed due to a prop malfunction during the theater department’s production of “The Gallows.” Twenty years later, the school’s students have mounted a revival of the failed stage play (and the fact that the school board didn’t have a problem with this highlights the level of stupidity on display in the film), with football jock Reese (Reese Mishler) landing the coveted lead role despite his complete lack of experience or talent. Reese is noticeably nervous about making his acting debut, so when his friend Ryan (Ryan Shoos) suggests that they break into the school at night and destroy the set so that the play gets cancelled, he reluctantly agrees to tag along. (And of course they record the whole thing, because why wouldn’t they want evidence tying them to the crime?) But after the two guys – along with gal pal Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford) and drama queen Pfiefer (Pfiefer Brown) – mysteriously get locked inside and begin to experience creepy occurrences, they learn that the vengeful spirit of Charlie still haunts the school.

The movie takes the “Blair Witch Project” approach by presenting the cobbled-together footage as police evidence, but that only makes everything seem even more fake as a result, despite the studio’s efforts to plaster the internet with fake websites that reference the death at the center of the story. (Seriously, Google “Charlie Grimille” and see what happens.) But while the viral marketing is admirable, it doesn’t change the fact that “The Gallows” is a dull, poorly acted and generally awful found footage film that’s void of any sense of terror or fear. Relying on genre touchstones like bad lighting and shaky camera movements, every jump scare is telegraphed moments before it happens.

It takes nearly 40 minutes before anything even remotely interesting occurs, leaving the audience to suffer through some dreadful dialogue between the characters, none of whom are very likable – particularly cameraman Ryan, an insufferable douchebag that you want to punch in the face as soon as you hear his voice for the first time. He couldn’t die soon enough, and yet because there are only four potential victims, the audience is stuck following him around for a majority of the short but uneventful 87-minute runtime.

“The Gallows” is one of those horror movies that hinges on its characters making stupid decisions, and boy do they, but what’s most disappointing about the film is that there was the opportunity to do something really unique with the material. A movie about the theater geeks getting revenge on the cool kids would have been a lot more fun, but instead, writers/directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing fall back on the same old ghost nonsense, and it’s so bad that you’ll want to hang yourself from boredom. That may be a low blow as far as insults are concerned, but “The Gallows” honestly doesn’t deserve any better.


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