Directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing.
2015. Rated R, 81 minutes.
Price T. Morgan
You know how these things start. We begin by watching VHS footage of a high school play from 1993. Of course, the kids are performing something called "The Gallows," and coming up on the climactic scene when one of the characters will be hanged. Bada-boom, bada-bing, something goes wrong, and the boy playing that part, Charlie Grimille (Cross) is accidentally hanged for real in front of a packed house. Next thing you know, we've fast forwarded to 2013 and are watching digital video from the same high school as the kids are preparing to put on a brand new production of...say it with me..."The Gallows." Not surprisingly, old Charlie Grimille's name comes up often as the entire town is abuzz over this incarnation of the play since this will be the first time it's been performed since that fateful day. In particular, we follow lead actor Reese (Mishler), his leading lady Pfeifer (Brown), his best friend Ryan (Shoos), who works the camera and provides much narration, and Ryan's girlfriend Cassidy (Gifford), along with an assortment of other cool kids and drama geeks. Just in case you couldn't tell, another found footage flick ensues.
This is one of those films that doesn't do anything particularly wrong, but doesn't do anything particularly right, either. And this is precisely why it's all wrong. Sorry if that's confusing. What I mean is it never rises above, nor sinks below the trappings of its genre. Everything is done by the numbers. In lieu of creating a real sense of dread, it gives us one of boring inevitability. That feeling is set up from the very start. We may not be able to guess the details right away, but we have a pretty good idea of the outcome. The Gallows could distract us by giving us interesting people to hang around with. Instead, it gives us a whole slew of unlikable and/or annoying characters. We never get in anyone's corner. Instead, we want them all to die a violent death. Of course, the type of movie it is dictates this will happen, so there's that. I know, I know. That deserves a spoiler alert, except it really doesn't because we start the movie knowing this to be the outcome. Once those details so start rolling in, we've either figured it out or think it's entirely too dumb.
As if the audience weren't already inundated with enough genre cliches, the film also falls victim to the one thing that has felled nearly every found footage film before it. Since someone has to be holding that damn camera, characters will be sure to grab hold of it no matter the situation. There are a number of instances where you or I would've left that camera wherever it's lying to get a head start on whatever the hell it is, chasing me. Nope, not these guys. Sigh. In short, if you hate found footage flicks, skip this one. There's nothing here elevated beyond your expectations. The directing team of Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing, who also shared writing duties, prove that in filmmaking, two heads aren't necessarily better than one. They combine to deliver a film almost completely void of imagination and originality. Therefore, even if you love found footage flicks, you can still skip it. You've seen it a thousand times, already. In a world where even most die hard horror fans no longer care about the latest Paranormal Activity sequel, The Gallows doesn't need to exist.