‘The Gallows’ is Just Another Bad Found Footage Movie

GameStop, Inc.

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It used to be that if you wanted to damn a film with the faintest of praises, you could merely say it was at least in focus. That, of course, is a saying that predated the rise of the found footage horror film. There’s something inherently anti-cinematic about the genre, which typically features annoying characters carrying a camera around well past the point of usefulness. The latest found footage film to make its way into theaters is The Gallows, which features all of the subgenre’s weaknesses and none of its strengths, like a hybrid monster of bad filmmaking.

The Gallows opens with footage from a 1993 high school staging of The Gallows. Before the climax, the gallows on stage malfunction, killing the young actor Charlie on stage. 20 years later, the same high school is staging the same exact play again. Apparently, even though the school has constant reminders of the past tragedy, nobody really thinks that this is a bad idea. Most of the film is present through the perspective of Ryan (Ryan Shoos), a smartass jock who takes nothing seriously but films everything. Ryan’s friend Reese (Reese Mishler) has quit the football team in order to act in the ill-conceived recreation of The Gallows. His main motivation is to be closer to Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown), dubbed the drama queen. Fearful that his poor acting skills might embarrass him, Ryan and Reese, accompanied by Ryan’s girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford), have decided to destroy the set of the play in order to prevent its presentation. Soon, they find themselves mysteriously locked in the school, and Pfeifer is also in there as spooky happenings get underway.

Like many a found footage movie, The Gallows takes a premise that might’ve been remotely interesting as an actual movie and turns into a tedious exercise of visual garbage. The writing-directing team of Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing bring little in the way of pacing or suspense to their horror film, choosing loud startles over anything resembling terror. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “You know, I’d like this horror film more if it had shots of people’s shoes while they incessantly talk,” well I’ve got a movie for you.

The Gallows also features a set of characters that seemed like they ripped out of an ‘80s movie and placed into a contemporary setting. All the jocks are dumb bullies and the drama nerds are ineffectual wimps. There’s no added thought or subversion of clichés – it’s all clichéd. Sadly, Cluff and Lofing give nothing to aid their young actors, none of who come off particularly adept at acting. Then again, it’s hard to be a convincing actor when the extent of your lines is “What’s that?”

Don’t get me wrong, I love horror films. However, I have little or no patience for horror films that are more devoted to a tired gimmick than actually providing scares. That’s all The Gallows does. It does also feature an incredibly stupid twist at the end, like an obligatory pickle to go along with that shit sandwich. This is the kind of horror film where after 30 minutes you don’t care which characters live or die – I wanted them all to die. If you’re looking for a movie without interesting characters, suspense, or the burden to remain in focus – The Gallows is for you.

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