Synopsis: 20 years after a horrific accident during a small town school play, students at the school resurrect the failed show in a misguided attempt to honor the anniversary of the tragedy – but soon discover that some things are better left alone.
Release Date: July 10, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Horror, Thriller
About a month ago, the internet blew up with the “Charlie Charlie Challenge,” a trend in which kids would try to contact a demon using two pencils and a sheet of paper. Rumor has it that the whole thing was just a marketing ploy for the new movie The Gallows. If that’s true, then it’s unfortunate, because the viral campaign was scarier than the actual movie.
The Gallows begins with some 1993 video footage of a high school play, appropriately called “The Gallows,” in which a horrible accident resulted in the hanging death of the leading man, a boy named Charlie Grimille. Some twenty years later, the school resurrects the play, thanks to the diligence of theater geek Pfeiffer (Pfeifer Brown from “Big Time Rush”). Because theater is a required course, a bunch of football players and cheerleaders are in the production as well, with the leading role going to a jock named Reese (Reese Houser from “Youthful Daze”). When Reese feels unprepared for opening night, his buddy Ryan (Ryan Shoos from As Night Comes) and Ryan’s girlfriend, Cassidy (God’s Not Dead‘s Cassidy Gifford), come up with a plan: break into the theater and trash the set so the show can’t go on. Once they’re there, however, they are stalked by a mysterious presence that they are convinced is Charlie, back from the dead and hell-bent on punishing those who want to put on his play.
The Gallows was written and directed by the team of Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing (whose only other feature is the 2012 family adventure Gold Fools). On paper, the movie is a good idea. It’s just a few years too late. With the internet marketing and found footage gimmick, it may as well have been called Paranormal Activity: The Gallows. The film looks very much like it could be an entry into the Paranormal Activity franchise, but if it were, it would be the worst one.
Like any found footage movie, The Gallows falls victim to the same flaws and limitations that are inherent to the genre, weaknesses like shaky camerawork, poor audio quality, and annoying characters. But, there are other problems with The Gallows. There are unnecessary pockets of exposition – an out-of-nowhere video tape, some overdubbed lines of dialogue – that spoon-feed backstory and plot elements, not giving the audience the intellectual credit that it deserves. The actual mystery behind the film is also disappointingly easy to solve, with a big twist ending that is telegraphed from a mile away. Although there are a handful of freaky occurrences, the first hour or so of the movie is fretfully ghost-free, leaving the irritating main characters to carry the film. Granted, in typical Paranormal Activity style, the last fifteen minutes is fairly riveting, but still not strong enough to save the movie from mediocrity.
In the end, The Gallows gets credit for trying. Cluff and Lofing make a fair attempt at a found footage movie, and they even managed to generate a bit of internet buzz before its release with the “Charlie Charlie Challenge” viral marketing campaign that may or may not be related to the movie. But the actual movie itself disappoints. The Gallows gets a solid A for effort, but a C- in execution.
Like most found footage movies, the anticipation in The Gallows is worse than the actual scares. Unlike most found footage movies, however, there’s little-to-no payoff in The Gallows. The selective vision of Ryan’s camera and the poor lighting make for some decent buildups, but the lack of any real scares just gets annoying after a while. Sure, there are the typical loud noise scares that are also a staple of found footage horror, but those are more irritating than scary. There’s some creepy stuff that happens when the film gets good in the final reel, but by then, the audience is too busy looking at its watch to realize any true fear. It’s more of a feeling of curiosity and wonder than one of terror. And curiosity and wonder won’t make you too scared to turn off the lights at night.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Travis Cluff
- Producer(s): Jason BlumTravis CluffChris LofingDean SchniderBenjamin Forkner
- Screenwriter(s): Travis CluffChris Lofing
- Cast: Reese MishlerPfeifer BrownRyan Shoos Cassidy Gifford
- Cinematographer: Edd Lukas
- Production Designer(s): Jennifer Sullivan
- Costume Designer: Jessica Peter
- Casting Director(s): Carollyn Devore
- Music Score: Zach Lemmon
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA