‘The Gallows’ Review: Just another gimmick
It’s basically Glee gone gothic.
Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing’s The Gallows features a Reese (Mishler), a football jock who quits the varsity team to play the lead in a school play just to impress Pfeifer (Brown), the theater actress who is both directing and starring in the school play. However, instead of harmonious belting and graceful choreography, the flick features a lot of cacophonous screaming and disorienting camera movements.
The Gallows begins with a VHS recording of the 1993 staging of a play that resulted in the violent death of the lead. The film then cuts to the present day where a rather obnoxious videographer (Ryan Shoos) is capturing the embarrassing rehearsals of the same play that was staged decades ago, only this time with Reese and Pfeifer playing the leads.
Through Ryan’s unwavering and convenient recording of everything, the film unceremoniously reveals its unspectacular horror. Reese, Ryan, and Ryan’s girlfriend Cassidy (Spilker) breaks into the theater at night to destroy the set, ensuring that the play will not push through and Reese will not embarrass himself, losing Pfeifer in the process.
As can be expected from a horror film, weird things start to happen. There seems to be something more to the 1993 freak accident than what was shown in the videotaped recording.
More found footage
The Gallows is the latest in the long line of found footage horror flicks that are being cheaply produced since the breakout success of Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s The Blair Witch Project (1999). The market has been severely crowded with cheaply made flicks seeking to recreate the success of Myrick and Sanchez’s film.
Tropes are reimagined, refashioned, and re-engineered to suit the growing sophistication of the audience. When the security footage of Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity (2007) have become cliche, newer and more adventurous directors experimented with form, creating nightmares out of computer screens as with Levan Gabriadze’s Unfriended (2014), or imagination, utilizing the found footage technique to map the progress of a superhuman as with Josh Trank’s Chronicle (2012).
The Gallows is probably the least imaginative of the bunch. Its relies too heavily on characters constantly and illogically videotaping, whether by a handy DV camera or an iPhone, each and every one of their movements to push the narrative forward. For a genre whose form puts a premium on realism, any instance of unintended illogic is dangerous.
Repetitive and lousy
In this case, the film is betrayed by its conceit. Sure, the wobbly and unattractive aesthetic certainly creates an enormous amount of tension. However, it also repels any opportunity for innovation. The Gallows gets woefully repetitive, with its cheap shocks and tentative atmospheres of manufactured dread. The film is boringly satisfied with its being nothing more than a lousy repeat of a tired gimmick.
The Gallows delights in its empty and ineffective scares. Its plot offers nothing for further discourse. It is just the generic frame that will bring together four repulsive victims who will predictably meet their grisly demise within the context of a haunted stageplay.
It is a pity, really. There is a gem in the middle of the film’s shallow exploration of the caste system that pervades American high schools, with its impenetrable line that divides the cool and pretty athletes and the misunderstood geeks that supposedly spend their unpopular lives buried in songs or theater. Sadly, the film has taken the path of least resistance, and has decided that it wants to be the annoying show-off instead of the discreetly smart wallflower. It ends up as dead and soulless as its bland characters. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios