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A great concept hung up (heh) by a hackneyed use of “found-footage” film. Can we all agree that this “new, exciting” style is long past its sell-by date? Grade: C
What: On October 29th, 1993, a high school put on a production of “The Gallows”. But a set malfunction — yep, those gallows — causes the death of a cast member. Cut to October 28th, 2013, where the school decides to revisit this play. Why? Because they’re masochists. Why care about something that happened in ’13? Why indeed.
Why: Are you already amping up for Halloween, and in desperate need of a fear fix at the multiplex? Well, if you’re not too picky — and don’t need to care about the victim list in a horror film — this could fit the bill. A few creepy moments thanks to quality cinematography and effects keeps The Gallows from really dropping the ball. Plus, there’s a ton of sub-par horror garbage on Netflix lately, so hit up this film if you’re really jonesing for a fright.
How: An intriguing premise, but too muddled and enamored of its “found footage” format to really work. Perhaps that’s due to two directors — Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing– helming the film. That’d explain the lack of cohesion and disjointed feel of the plot. But that’s not the only problem here. There’s too much suspension of disbelief required to really dig into the horror that The Gallows tries to trot out. A school would be allowed to perform a play that caused the death of a student years before? Sure, because the school board and neighborhood folks would be fine with that. A high school where unknown folks can wander in to sit and watch the kids for hours? Of course, not creepy at all, and totally acceptable in this day and age. But most of all; drama class is MANDATORY? Um, as much as I’d love that, there’s no way in hell that’d fly. The Gallows doesn’t bother to flesh out any backstory beyond “wanna see how that kid died?”, so gaping holes in plot and characterization soon become the only thing to focus on.
The actors deliver decent performances, but they’re really only tasked with running around and screaming a lot. There’s no character development beyond “he has a crush on her”, “she’s his girlfriend”, “he’s a douche”. Screenwriters Cluff and Lofing (double duty!) write characters so boring, empty and vapid that there’s no reason to care about any of them, so much like the audience, these kids don’t have anything to sink into. When these characters start dying, it’s just one step closer to the film being over, rather than any true terror. The bright spots in this film are Edd Lukas’ cinematography and the makeup FX by Rachel Jenkins and Michael Needham, which go a long way toward making this film look a whole lot better than it has any right to.
The scariest part of the film was the end, where there was just enough of a BOOGABOOGA scare to hint at a sequel, if this film makes any kind of money. Brrr, now that’s scary.