Catching Up: The Gallows (2015)
Directors: Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing
Cast: Ryan Shoos, Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Cassidy Griffin, Price T. Morgan, Melissa Bratton
The found footage thriller The Gallows begins with a title card stating that the footage we’re about to see is the “property of the Beatrice Police Department.” This made me smile. I couldn’t help but think about how this footage, belonging as it does to the Beatrice Police Department, found its way into the hands of Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema.
Beatrice Chief-of-Police: “It’s so sad what happened to these kids. Just so sad.”
Beatrice Deputy: “You want to sell the footage and make a few extra bucks?”
Beatrice Chief-of-Police: “Oh, hell yeah! You kidding? We need some pay raises around here.”
I know, I know. Most found footage movies do this. It’s fiction, we know it, and the filmmakers know we know it. It’s just part of the gimmick. The problem is now the gimmick is becoming more than a little bit tiresome. It worked for movies like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity because their movies had actors we had never seen before. The illusion that what we’re seeing was actual footage sort of worked. In The Gallows, we have Cassidy Gifford, daughter of Kathie Lee Gifford, who (according to IMDB) had been in a couple of movies and TV shows prior to this. It’s not the same.
The story here is just stupid. Back in October of 1993, a young student named Charlie Grimmell was accidentally hanged during the high school theater performance of a show called The Gallows. Twenty years later, the school is planning to do another performance of the play, on the exact anniversary of the tragedy, using many of the same costumes and similar set design. Yeah, that’s not in poor taste at all!
For a good forty minutes or so, we follow a truly revolting character named Ryan (Ryan Shoos), a football jock and overall jerk who’s forced to participate behind-the-scenes on the production of The Gallows. A lot of critics have complained about the character Ryan, calling him insufferable. He is, although to be fair, he is convincingly written. I went to school with kids who behaved exactly like this jerk. He’s a believable character, but that doesn’t mean that I could stand him.
Ryan’s best bud Reese (Reese Mishler) has recently quit the football team to star in the play, much to Ryan’s chagrin. He just can’t understand why Reese who quit something cool like football to do something so lame like acting. As it turns out, Reese has the hots for the theater nerd Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown), and really wants to impress her with his performance (it doesn’t hurt that their characters kiss near the end of the play).
After discovering a broken stage door that doesn’t lock, Ryan concocts a plan to break into the theater at night and destroy the set, cancelling the show. Reese isn’t so sure at first, but after Ryan tells him to it straight (“You’re a terrible actor, dude!”), he goes along with the plan. Along with Ryan’s cheerleader girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Griffin), the three kids break into the school, run into Pfeifer, get locked inside, are harassed by an evil spirit with a noose, etc. You know the drill.
Directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing have said that they went with the found-footage approach because of budget restrictions. They should have waited until they could have afforded to film the movie conventionally. Found-footage movies are built around the idea of characters wanting to film things happening to them, no matter what. The kids in The Gallows are doing something illegal. There is no reason for them to keep filming themselves. I mean, what are they planning to do with the footage after their deed is done? Post it on Youtube?
To be fair, there are a couple of creepy shots in the film (like the night vision shot of a body hanging high above the ground), and the actors play their roles as well as they possibly can (even Gifford, even though I singled her out earlier in the review). The problem lies with the screenplay and the approach. The story is dumb, and the found-footage approach makes it seem even dumber.
I’m glad the Beatrice Police Department made a quick buck though. Given how stupid they come across in this movie, maybe they can afford to hire police officers with a modicum of competence.
Rated R for violent and disturbing images, mild profanity.
Final Grade: ** (out of ****)
Other Thoughts on The Gallows (2015) :)
- The Gallows Movie Review & Film Summary (2015) | Roger Ebert
- TheFrightFile Review: The Gallows (2015) by Dustin Putman
The Gallows (2015) - 2.5/4 Stars - Intellectually, 'The Gallows' may not hold up to close scrutiny, but as a meticulous exercise in dread there is no denying how well it works.
- The Gallows - Film Calendar - The Austin Chronicle
Another found-footage horror film that's best left unfound (zero start)
- The Gallows | RichardRoeper.com
The Gallows Movie Review