The Gallows – Guillotines Were Always More Fun, Anyway

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Directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing. Produced by Jason Blum, Travis Cluff, Benjamin Forkner, Chris Lofing, Dean Schnider. Written by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing. Release date: July 10, 2015.

Thus far in 2015, Blumhouse Productions has released The Boy Next Door, The Lazarus Effect, Area 51, and Insidious: Chapter 3. Precisely one of these has been any good. The rest have been lazy horror/thriller movies, the likes of which are destined to end up on several “worst of” lists – and probably in the bargain bins at your local electronics store. The Gallows is the latest Blumhouse film, and it might just be the worst of the bunch. It’s a found footage film filled with jump startles, annoying characters, and obligatory twists which add nothing to the experience but confusion for the audience – especially when they’re logistically impossible. Oh, boy.

The initial scene in The Gallows sees a play from 1993, The Gallows, go horribly wrong. One of the actors, Charlie, winds up being hung for real. Twenty years later, and the same play is being put on, in the same school, once again. What better way to honor Charlie, right? I’m sure that’s the type of publicity a school would want. Anyway, the protagonists of the film are all somehow connected to the play. The one holding the camera, most of the time, is Ryan (Ryan Shoos), who hates all of the “drama geeks,” but is taking the class because he has to, or something.

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Who else is there? Reese (Reese Mishler) is a former football player who is now the lead actor in the play, despite being absolutely horrible at acting. His co-star is Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown), on whom he has a crush. Finally, we have Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford), who is Ryan’s girlfriend. All of the non-Pfeifer characters find themselves breaking into the school the night before the first performance in order to destroy the set, are caught by Pfeifer, and then they all get haunted by a ghost whom we’re to presume is Charlie.

Wait just a second. First, why would a vengeful ghost wait 20 years to get his revenge? Second, why would he want to kill the kids who are actively trying to stop the play from happening? Third, why are all the actors playing characters who share their names? Seriously, are the actors so bad at their jobs that they wouldn’t be able to remember their characters’ names if they weren’t identical to their own? I know doing the long takes required of found footage movies can be difficult, but simply answering to a different name shouldn’t be that hard.

Anyway, all of this is just a convoluted setup to get four kids locked in a building with a ghost who is more concerned with scaring the camera than actually killing the kids. I don’t know why he wouldn’t get on with it, since they’re all annoying, one-note stereotypes, but I’m not a ghost, so what do I know? I guess, technically speaking, he does get on with it relatively quickly, as The Gallows only runs for 80 minutes – its one positive feature – but it sure feels like longer. I checked my watch more often during this movie than any other in recent memory.

The Gallows is cheap, lazy, and incompetent, and it isn’t deserving of your time.

It takes a long time to get to the “scaring.” There are two jump startles in the first half hour, one of which is done by a human character just because. Once the “scaring” begins, the characters run, scream, and get choked with a noose, all while discovering revelations that don’t actually change anything, but kill a bit of time and act like big, important twists, so the filmmakers can feel like they fooled you.

Hiding information, then revealing it, is not how one can be fooled by a movie. Having the new information change little except give its scary entity a motivation only serves to make the scary entity less scary. And since the only way the scary entity attempts to scare us is through jump startles – which are not scary anyway – that means that for most of The Gallows you’re going to be sitting there, half falling asleep, woken up only by the periodic loud noises and quick camera pans.

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That is, if you can even stay awake through the tedious first act, which is supposed to make us care for these characters. It’s slow, it’s dull, and it’s far more likely to make you hate each and every one of them. They’re stereotypes, they’re played by weak actors, and most of them are jerks. Are we supposed to care when they get hunted and killed? I couldn’t muster up the energy. I wanted them off the screen, so I wound up rooting for the ghost.

Found footage movies often make little logistical sense. How have they been edited this way, especially when multiple cameras are used? In this case, one’s a phone and one uses tapes. Why do they continue filming everything? It creates a disconnect with the audience and takes us out of the experience. Few found footage movies truly “work,” and more often than not the style is used to keep the budget down and hide incompetence on the part of the filmmakers. Both of these are true here. The Gallows is cheap, lazy, and incompetent, and it isn’t deserving of your time.

Bottom Line: The Gallows is a lazy horror movie that throws jump startles at its audience in lieu of plot, characters, or genuine scares.

Recommendation: The Gallows is destined for the bargain bin … and it doesn’t even deserve to be watched for that price.



If you want more of Matthew “Marter” Parkinson, you can follow him on the Twitter @Martertweet and check out his weekly movie podcast.

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