The Gallows’ horror hangs on tired found-footage clichés



By Steve Newton

I wonder how much longer teenaged moviegoers’ patience with low-budget “found footage” horror can last? Kids must be getting sick of the endless scenes of jittery camerawork, shreiking sound-effects, and predictable jump scares.

Obviously, moviemakers like Blumhouse Productions–the company behind the hugely successful Paranormal Activity and Insidious franchises–are hoping they can continue to milk the trend. That’s why they got a couple of relatively unknown writer-directors (Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing) to bang this baby out at a reported cost of $100,000.

The movie starts out okay, realistically depicting a tragic accident during a high-school play where a student actor dies during a botched hanging scene. You can believe that actually happening. Fast-forward 20 years, and the same play–with the same gallows–is still being performed at the same school.

You can’t believe that actually happening.

The hanged-man-to-be this time around is the hunky Reese (Reese Mishler), a football star who’s only taking theatre so he can interact with his crush Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown). He can’t act worth beans, but that doesn’t stop him from landing the lead role for the play, which is being diligently documented on video by his best bud Ryan (Ryan Shoos).

A total dickhead and bully, Ryan talks Reece into sneaking into the school at night to wreck the set and save him from embarrassing himself on stage. Ryan’s cheerleader girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford) insists on tagging along for the fun–shades of Nancy Allen’s cruel bitch from Carrie.

At first it seems like The Gallows might want to be a high-school slasher/revenge flick along the lines of Prom Night, but once the teens get trapped in the school it becomes just another of those supernatural “Run! Stop! Listen! Scream! Squabble! Don’t stop filming till we’re dead!” debacles.

Watching The Gallows made me pity today’s young horror fans. As a teen in the ’70s I had gifted filmmakers like De Palma, Friedkin, Hitchcock, and Argento delivering the goods. I’ll always thank the scary-movie gods for that.

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