We all know high school plays can be a little bit of a disaster, but American horror film The Gallows takes your average drama class production and turns it into something far more sinister. During Beatrice High School’s 1993 retelling of The Gallows, a young Charlie Grimille was accidentally hanged and killed on-stage in front of his fellow classmates and audience members. Then, 20 years later in an ill-conceived attempt to honour Charlie’s memory, Beatrice High School decides to revisit the play with popular student and ex-jock Reese (Reese Mishler) reluctantly starring in the role that Charlie once played.
However, Reese’s obnoxious best friend, Ryan (Ryan Shoos) is concerned how the play will affect Reese’s position in the school’s social hierarchy. In order to stop the play from running and prevent Reese from embarrassing himself, Ryan convinces Reese to join he and his girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford) in sneaking into the drama theatre after hours and trashing the set. Followed inside by drama nerd Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown), the four students quickly find themselves trapped in the depths of the school and under attack from someone – or something – that is hellbent on revenge. Could dredging up the past mean that history gets repeated once more?
I actually quite like the premise of this horror film – it’s a little bit different, doesn’t seem totally impossible, and there’s a little twist at the end that will keep you on your toes. But alas, directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing have chosen to execute this story in the most unoriginal and frankly disappointing way possible. This is a plea to filmmakers everywhere: please, for the love of cinema, stop using found footage. Unless you can come up with an inventive and believable reason as to why your characters are running around with a camera in-hand, then just stop with the clumsy and nauseating use of the hand-held. Found footage seems to be an increasing trend in films – particularly those of the horror genre – these days, and it irks me to no end. To me, it doesn’t make sense that these characters would continue to hold up their cameras or video-phones while they’re running for their lives.
Add to this some hugely unlikable characters, sub-par acting and poorly planned scares and you’ve got yourself yet another B-grade horror to add to the ever-growing pile. It’s one of the hardest genres to get right, and with and interesting story line, The Gallows could have been so much more. There’s no cleverness about the way they create tension, which is achieved mainly by keeping the characters and the viewers almost completely in the dark, and you’re always anticipating the pop-up scares before they happen. There’s nothing particularly shocking and, if I’m really honest, I found the appearance of the demonic “entity” in question more laughable than horrible.
If you’re a fan of horror, then you might want to check out The Gallows to see how good it could have been. But don’t say I didn’t warn you: you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment.
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