15th Jul2015

‘The Gallows’ Review

by Mark Allen

Stars: Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Cassidy Gifford, Travis Cluff | Written and Directed by Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing

The-Gallows-quad-poster

You know the old saying less is more? Yeah, well, sometimes less is just…less. Such is the way with The Gallowsthe new film from lo-fi horror producers Blumhouse (Paranormal Activity, The Purge), which managed the astounding feat of both dragging throughout most of its length and yet having barely anything to show for itself by the time the credits mercifully rolled.

The film takes the tried-and-tired trope of found footage and plays it old school, meaning that it makes no attempts to improve or subvert the formula that’s worked (dubiously) for almost two decades now. High schooler and douchebag jock Ryan is our cameraman for most of the proceedings, as he decides that the only way to make his mandatory drama lessons more interesting is to film everything(?). The students are putting on a production of The Gallows, an ill-fated show that resulted in the “accidental” death of a student at that very school twenty years ago. So to mark the occasion they…stage the…same show? That just seems in poor taste. That’s like creating a dinosaur theme park, having most of the safety inspectors & staff die and then opening the park anyway. Oh, wait. Never mind.

Despite his main function being to pretend to carry a camera around, Ryan voices his unwanted and abrasive opinions at every possible opportunity, from telling the lead actress Pfeifer that his best bud Reese (her opposite number and, incidentally, terrible) has the hots for her to talking to himself about how much he hates acting. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to want Ryan to eat it immediately, but a scene in which he prangs a stereotypical drama nerd with a football cemented my desire to see him strung up IF ONLY JUST TO MAKE HIM STOP TALKING PLEASE JUST STOP

Conveniently, the film accommodated these wishes after twenty minutes of painfully dull exposition, along with the introduction of Cassidy, Ryan’s much-too-good-for-him girlfriend. (Have I mentioned how much I despise this kid?) The four named characters break into the school at night for some contrived reason – which is lazy screenwriting, I guess, but why they bring the bloody camera with them is just plain moronic – and start experiencing weird occurrences like randomly locking doors, self-fixing stage props and ghostly nooses wrapping themselves around the kids’ necks.

What follows is sixty minutes of drawn-out jump scares and snotty wailing to camera punctuated by the odd predictable plot twist. If you’ve so much as heard of The Blair Witch Project and the sudden appearance of ropes on the floor (the terror!)  doesn’t constitute a great cinematic experience for you then there’s not a lot to be gained from The Gallows.  I might not have taken against the film so much were it not for the fact that it doesn’t seem to follow its own rules or internal logic. The characters are simply trapped in a maze that shifts arbitrarily and are barely allowed to make a single decision that will affect their inevitable fate. It all gets a bit boring when you know the game’s been rigged, and movies that chuck out their own internal logic (unless it’s for a damn spectacular reason) really get my goat.

If you’re into repetitive jump scares (I didn’t flinch, but plenty of others in my screening did) or feeling yet another evening slip away into the eventual nothingness that all our lives will one day amount to as you sit among people you cannot communicate with then The Gallows might be the movie for you. If not there might be hope for us yet.

The Gallows is released at UK cinemas on Friday 17th July.

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