Thursday, November 26, 2015

Gallows, The (2015)

Directors: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing
Notable Cast: Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Cassidy Gifford, Price T. Morgan

At some point a trend has to seemingly slow down, right? I mean, you can only rehash the same technique, style, and approach so many times before expansion or evolution should naturally occur. However, the found footage style of horror films seems to be a resilient trend that refuses to evolve. You can argue until you’re blue in the face about whether or not it was all that effective to begin with, but it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. Perhaps it’s just an easy and cheap way to make a buck with horror, but something needs to happen. The Gallows, the latest effort from horror producer super hero Jason Blum, is a big sign post about why. Instead of running with its fairly interesting concept, the film instead regurgitates the same formula, style, and ineffective execution that has plagued the found footage genre for years now. It’s dumb, irritating, and worst of all – it’s boring.

In 1993, tragedy struck a local high school theatrical production. One of their actors was accidentally hung on stage during a performance of The Gallows. Now it’s 20 years later and the high school, looking to overcome the tragedy, is intent on performing the play again. However, the night before the opening performance, four teens involved with the production are intent with sabotaging it. They sneak into the theater to dismantle the set. Unfortunately, someone (or something) is out to stop them.

"What is this contraption? It says VCR. Never heard of it."
So if there is anything that really comes off as the overarching feeling from The Gallows, it’s that it is a massive disappointment. There is a fun concept to be had here. Haunted theater, ghost with noose, a cryptic history to the play, and even a particular reason for the choice of cast as a twist in the plot. Yet, The Gallows doesn’t exploit any of it. In fact, it seems to really shy away from running with the gimmick and the moments that should have made the film fun even if it was bad. There are a few moments of slightly inspired fun (one character mysteriously receives rope burn marks on her neck throughout the second act – for example), but the film really misses out on running with the gimmick of its concept. A sin that The Gallows doesn’t have the execution to get around.

Which does bring up the general terribleness of its execution. The film spends the first act throwing in some character development, but it’s mostly irritating. Perhaps the high school drama and immaturity of the characters appeals to the tween crowd that this film is obviously geared towards, but it makes for characters that seem horrifically shallow and there is an odd romantic subplot that is poorly developed (which is key for the twist and finale to work – so thus, it doesn’t). The acting is mediocre at best, eye-rollingly bad at worst and the directors of the film lack the visual creativity to make the found footage style build any tension. What scary scenes that are included are rehashed moments from other (and better) found footage films so even if the tension was there – it probably wouldn’t have been for much payoff.

Crying in the hallways, it's how I feel about this movie too.
For the majority of horror fans, The Gallows wasn’t high on the list to see thanks to its found footage style and teen focused plot. For those that might have been interested, it’s not even worth the time because it’s one of the worst and most generic found footage horror films you’re likely to see. It really just misses the mark in working it’s fun idea into a working format. My recommendation: let The Gallows hang and don’t look back.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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