The Gallows

Posted by Michael Parsons on July 10, 2015 in / 1 Comment


Four teens find themselves on the run from an obscure noose-wielding phantom in “The Gallows”, a poorly executed horror flick and further evidence that the rising popularity of the found footage sub-genre has nothing to do with quality.

Reese (Reese Mishler) is a high school jock-turned-thespian set to star in a revival of a stage play entitled “The Gallows” 20 years after a tragic accident claimed the life of its star, Charlie Grimille, in front of a mortified audience.

la-et-mn-the-gallows-review-20150710Problem is that Reese isn’t very good at acting, and his relentlessly obnoxious best friend Ryan (Ryan Shoos), anticipating that his bud will crash and burn in front of co-star and crush Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown), concocts a plan to break into the school after hours and sabotage the production.

Reluctantly, Reese participates, hoping to save himself from on-stage embarrassment. Ironically, Mishler is a pretty good actor, at least by comparison to Shoos, whose blowhard upstart is just one step away from giving the feeble prop master a backstage wedgie, and whose cheerleader girlfriend, mean-girl Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford), might as well be wearing a T-shirt that says “Come And Get Me, Beeyatch!”

Though efficient from a production standpoint, found-footage movies have the burden of justifying why the characters would be filming in the first place, at least within the loose parameters of horror movie logic, but “The Gallows” fumbles this from the moment that Ryan decides that he wants to record them breaking and entering and destroying school property (with one brief objection from Reese, which is quickly dismissed). If you’re willing to give that a pass, it’s unlikely you’ll believe that the camera manages to stay on when Charlie’s vengeful ghost starts stringing them up one-by-one.

Far worse than that, however, is that this production from Blumhouse, which has 2012’s terrifying “Sinister” in its catalog, is virtually bereft of scares. Writers/directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing don’t quite know how to fill those spaces between blood-curdling screams with anything that makes sense enough to be suspenseful, and the “shocks” come mainly at the expense of our eardrums.

Throw in nauseating camerawork and some lazy exposition via an old backstage TV set that loops us in to what actually seems like a pretty decent premise (which, on paper, might vaguely be reminiscent of the 1986 flick “Slaughter High”), and it begs us to wonder how some horror films end up on the big screen and some in the $2.99 bargain bin on VOD.

Best not to ask — just avoid. “The Gallows” gets a point for attempting a creatively creepy conclusion, but it feels kind of like putting a Cohiba wrapper on a dog turd.


– Michael Parsons

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Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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