The horror film genre is full of dumb teenagers who make bad decisions; there are so many you could populate a second earth. However “The Gallows”—yet another found footage feature-- may contain the dumbest teens of any horror movie. They’re so dumb, so unlikable and thin as construction paper. They may as well be wearing big, bright neon signs that read: “Here I am! Kill me now! I’m not going to make a single smart move!” Although, the movie itself—written and directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing—isn’t much smarter.
Twenty years ago, a small town high school put on a play called “The Gallows,” wherein one of the actors died in a freak accident when the play’s prop gallows malfunctioned. Now, the current students are reviving the failed show…because that’s a smart decision. For whatever reason, the football team and the cheerleaders are forced to participate, which is how we’re introduced to our three dummies.
The first, Ryan (Ryan Shoos) is the worse because he’s also a massive, massive prick. That’s it. That’s the extent of his character. Within five minutes of meeting him you already hate him. He doesn’t stop talking and he blames others for his stupid mistakes. Also, did I mention that he picks on the theater kids? No joke. At one point he hurls a football at the stage manager, knocking him down and shouting “nerd!” You read that right: a modern day horror movie that features a jock picking on a nerd. Apparently we’ve been transported back to the eighties. There’s also the sensitive jock—but still dumb as rocks—Reese (Reese Mishler) and Ryan’s blond cheerleader girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Spilker). Calling these teens “hollow shells” would be to sully hollow shells.
Anyway, where was I? The three are sick of doing the play, so Ryan proposes they break into the school that night and destroy the set, therby cancelling play the following evening. Uh-huh. And yes…the movie treats Ryan’s “plan” one hundred percent seriously. Not surprisingly, the other two bozos agree. Now keep in mind that since this is found footage, this all being recorded. That means when the three break into the school, they’re recording all of their vandalism, essentially indicting themselves. I’m just going to let that sink in for a moment. The found footage gimmick has been stale for a while now, but this is the stupidest, flimsiest, most worthless use of the style I’ve seen.
Sure, Ryan is selected to be the play’s videographer but that doesn’t explain why he would continue filming. And it doesn’t explain why the characters bring multiple cameras into the school later that night. The filmmakers don’t even bother to give the whole, “I’m making a documentary” excuse. The found footage angle in “The Gallows” is entirely worthless.
I haven’t even gotten to the actual horror movie stuff because there isn’t much to say. The filmmakers came up with about five, maybe ten minutes of interesting material and then must have forgot they had seventy minutes left to fill. The three, along with one of the drama geeks Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown) get trapped inside the school with an angry ghost. The stupid characters continue to make one stupid decision after another—splitting up, going down creepy corridors, etc. They restate obvious plot points and realizations constantly, and we get a lot of “Did you see that?” “Are you seeing that?” and “What is that?” Any attempt at a dramatic moment is completely undercut by the stupidity of the characters, terrible dialogue and horrendous acting. I laughed a great deal during “The Gallows,” though probably not when I was supposed to.
The picture primarily relies on cheap, ineffective jump scares that wear off immediately. Overall the horror in “The Gallows” is uninspired and lazy. The ending is somewhat clever but feels undeserved. Again, it’s as if the filmmakers came up with a solid premise, wrote a solid ending and then realized, “Oh shit! We need to write the rest of the screenplay!”
“The Gallows” is a dumb, bad movie, filled with dumb, bad characters deserving of every bit of punishment that comes their way. However, I can’t flunk the movie entirely. There is some unintentional fun to be had. The audience at the preview screening I attended was in to it, knowing full well how dim witted it was. My advice would be to wait and rent it. Watch with a group of friends and a couple cases of beer and bask in the sheer stupidity.