The horror film genre is so full of dumb teenagers making bad decisions one could all but populate a second planet (or country) with their low-grade stock. However The Gallows — yet another entry into the extensive found footage feature collection– may contain the dumbest teens of any horror movie. They’re massively dumb, completely unlikable and thin as tracing paper. They may as well be wearing big, bright neon signs that read: “Here I am! Kill me now!” Although, the movie itself—written and directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing—isn’t much smarter.
Twenty years ago, a small town high school put on a play called “The Gallows,” wherein one of the actors died in a freak gallow prop accident. Now, the current students are reviving the failed show…because f*ck it. For whatever reason, the football team and the cheerleaders are forced to participate in the production, a plot device that introduces us to our first three dummies.
The first, Ryan (Ryan Shoos) is the worse because he’s also a big ol’ prick. That’s it. That’s the extent of his character. Big. Ol’. Prick. Within five minutes of meeting him, you hate him. He doesn’t stop talking and he blames others for the invariably stupid mistakes he makes. Also, did I mention that he picks on the theater kids? No joke. At one point he hurls a football at the stage manager, knocking him down and shouting “Nerd!” You read that right: a modern day horror movie in which a jock picks on a nerd. Apparently, we’ve been transported back to the eighties. Where’s the tampon shaming when you need it? There’s also the sensitive jock—who’s still dumb as rocks—Reese (Reese Mishler) and Ryan’s blonde cheerleader girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Spilker). Calling these teens “hollow shells” would be to sully hollow shells.
Anyway, where was I? The three are sick of doing the play, so Ryan proposes they break into the school that night and destroy the set, ergo ruining the production’s planned next-day debut. Uh-huh. And yes…the movie treats Ryan’s “plan” one hundred percent seriously. Not surprisingly, the other two bozos agree. Now keep in mind that since this is found footage, this all being recorded. That means when the three break into the school, they’re recording all of their vandalism, essentially indicting themselves. Because evidence of destruction of property = smooth moves. I’m just going to let that sink in for a moment. The found footage gimmick has been stale for a while now, but this is the stupidest, flimsiest, most worthless use of the style I’ve seen.
Sure, Ryan is selected to be the play’s videographer but that doesn’t explain why he would continue filming. And it doesn’t explain why the characters bring multiple cameras into the school later that night. The filmmakers don’t even bother to give the whole, “I’m making a documentary” excuse. The found footage angle in The Gallows is entirely worthless.
I haven’t even gotten to the actual horror movie stuff because there isn’t much to say. The filmmakers came up with about five, maybe ten minutes of interesting material and then apparently forgot the remaining seventy minutes that needed filling. The three, along with one of the drama geeks Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown) get trapped inside the school with an angry ghost.
The stupid characters continue to make one stupid decision after another—splitting up, going down creepy corridors, etc. They restate obvious plot points and realizations constantly and we get a lot of “Did you see that?”, “Are you seeing that?” and “What is that?” Any attempt at a dramatic moment is completely undercut by the vapidity of the characters, which is in turn further exacerbated by terrible dialogue and horrendous acting. I laughed a great deal during The Gallows, though probably not when I was supposed to.
As has become the case with many of these throwaway found footage films, the picture primarily relies on cheap, ineffective jump scares that wear off immediately. The result is the horror that’s as uninspired as it is plain lazy. The ending is somewhat clever but feels undeserved. Again, it’s as if the filmmakers came up with a solid premise, wrote a solid ending and then realized, “Oh shit! We need to write the rest of the screenplay!”
The result? The Gallows is a dumb, bad movie, filled with dumb, bad characters deserving of every bit of punishment that comes their way. However, I can’t flunk the movie entirely. There is some unintentional fun to be had. The audience at the preview screening I attended was into it, knowing full well how dimwitted the whole thing was. My advice would be to wait and rent it if you feel compelled to ingest such a vacuous time-suck. If so, watch with a group of friends/a couple cases of beer. Turn off mind; bask in sheer stupidity.