The Gallows Movie Review
Written by Simret Cheema-Innis
Released by Warner Bros. UK
Written and directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing
2015, 81 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released on July 17th 2015
Reese Mishler as Reese Houser
Pfeifer Brown as Pfeifer Ross
Ryan Shoos as Ryan Shoos
Cassidy Gifford as Cassidy Spilker
Travis Cluff as Mr. Schwendiman
Price T. Morgan as Stage Boy
The Gallows reminds me of a glorified game of hangman, one you could play at home with the lights out or perhaps as a sex game gone wrong where everyone dies at the end. It’s just a shame it wasn’t as exciting as this premise - there’s so much more you can do with a bit of rope and a gallows.
A school revives a play called The Gallows, where twenty-years before, an understudy was hung in a freak accident when the trap door opened during a performance. Now in the present day Reese and Pfeifer are acting alongside each other in the same play. Ryan, filmmaker and Reese’s best friend, knows he’s just acting in the play to be closer to Pfeifer who he fancies.
One night Ryan and his girlfriend Cassidy convince Reese to destroy the set. They sneak into the school, where they bump into a suspicious Pfeifer who says she’s been rehearsing. Unbeknown to them all, they’re not alone, as a malevolent spirit with vengeance in mind wants to play a game of hangman.
The Gallows was probably the most anticipated found footage movie of this year, but it comes at a time where most fans are just bored of the genre. The film itself is laced with clichés and unfulfilling terror, confirming that the era of home-movie filmmaking appears to have reached its expiry date.
The culture of found-footage films are mostly centered on young people, this is their medium, it’s almost like their dissertation or coming of age assignment before they make a real movie. It’s also a springboard for first time movie directors or filmmakers who want to get their foot in the door. Unfortunately for us, the audience, we have to endure essay after essay of found footage and try to find gems in the endless charade of this kind of movie making, and it’s tiring don’t you think?
Although The Gallows is a found footage movie, shots are staged and even the shaky camerawork appears unspontaneous, giving way to predictable character reactions. Apparently the character names are the same as the actors, but the authenticity the filmmakers were going for certainly doesn’t come across on screen. When Reese’s phone rings and he’s unable to reach it as it’s trapped in a locker, when he finally gains access to it, he smashes the phone. It’s not the reaction of a normal person.
The antagonist's motives are unclear and the rules of his existence are questionable. Sometimes he’s a ghost and sometimes he appears in the flesh - it’s difficult to understand just what he is. The good thing is, at least we know his name is Charlie and, just like the Candyman, we shouldn’t call his name.
Again we have an idea which was made as a found-footage movie, but could have worked better as a cinematic film. The idea of a tragic hanging and a ghost who tries to do the same to his victims is cryptic. This against the backdrop of an old school theatre is equally ominous with haunted histories and ghosts from the past which make for great supernatural stories.
The Gallows had so much more potential, but what we’re left with is a polished home movie, all of which is difficult to understand because there’s a lot in the plot which doesn’t make sense.