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New Release Review - THE GALLOWS

A group of high school students find themselves trapped in their school building with a supernatural presence.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing

Starring: Cassidy Gifford, Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Travis Cluff



"The fact that all the characters share the same names as the actors playing them tells you a lot about the lack of creativity at play here. Once again, horror - that most cinematic of genres - has been reduced to a series of blurry night vision shots of feet."



While the found footage format is still being exploited by a legion of unoriginal filmmakers at the lower end of the production scale, major studio releases employing the format are finally beginning to thin out. The most recent examples have been Unfriended, which proved there may well be life in the gimmick yet, and Project Almanac, which plumbed the depths of mediocrity but was somewhat redeemed by its likeable protagonists. The Gallows offers nothing in the way of such redemption.
Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing's film opens with old school camcorder footage of a high school play (The Gallows) performed in 1993. Said play comes to an abrupt end when one of the performers, Charlie Grimille, comes to his own swift demise when an accident causes him to be strangled to death by a gallows prop.
Cut to present day and it's been decided that enough time has passed that a revival of The Gallows can go ahead, complete with a tasteless poster heavily featuring a noose (this sure ain't Catholic school). Taking the part originally played by Charlie is football jock Reese (Reese Mishler), his every move mockingly filmed by his obnoxious buddy Ryan (Ryan Shoos), who discovers Reese's real motivation for joining the drama club is his crush on leading lady Pfeifer (Pfeifer Ross). Fearing Reese's lack of acting talent is going to end in humiliation, Ryan convinces his mate to break into school at night, along with Ryan's dead-eyed girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Spilker), and trash the stage and props, thus cancelling the show. Once in the building they find themselves trapped, with all manner of seemingly supernatural occurrences at play. Could the halls of Beatrice High School be haunted by the spirit of Charlie Grimille?
The fact that all the characters share the same names as the actors playing them tells you a lot about the lack of creativity at play here. The first act of the movie is practically narrated by the Ryan character, the one holding the camera, which gives the film an all too easy device for expounding dumb, nuance free exposition. Ryan insists on describing everything he films, as though we've been struck blind, and he does it all in that irritating 'dude-bro' speak. After spending five minutes in his company you'll be wishing for his gruesome demise.
The film's one effective scare, which you've already seen if you've watched any of the promo material, is a knockoff of a famous scene from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, itself masterfully recreated by John Carpenter in his original Halloween. While the initial premise suggests a riff on the haunted house story, The Gallows owes more to the slasher movies of the '80s, with limp corpses falling in front of the camera, a decades old wrongdoing avenged, and a final sequel-baiting twist that doesn't make the least bit of sense. What it doesn't share with those movies are inventively staged kills. Once again, horror - that most cinematic of genres - has been reduced to a series of blurry night vision shots of feet.




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