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.
Problem 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