by: Andres Eloy Sereno Hernandez
edited by: Anthony Zangrillo
Blumhouse Productions presents another “found footage” film (a genre in itself) that tries to reach the horror heights of “Paranormal Activity” or “Blair Witch Project.” Those films created an immersive experience that left audiences scared as hell, wondering whether the footage was actually real. “The Gallows,” on the other hand never creates this atmosphere, even though it has some jump-out-of-the-seat moments.
The movie starts in 1993, where a High-School Play called “The Gallows” is tainted by the lurid death of the main character due to a set malfunction. Two decades later, the school tries to stage the same play (apparently a sick twisted type of tribute to the kid’s death). Forgiving this very improbable plot and assuming that the school would approve of this action, the story continues by following a desperately annoying cameraman (Ryan Shoos), his girlfriend (Cassidy Gifford), and the lead stars of the play (Reese Mishler and Pfiefer Brown). The protagonists find themselves mysteriously trapped in the school’s auditorium the night before the opening, where the supernatural shenanigans begin.
The film presents cobbled-together footage of police evidence for what the four high school students went through, but the movie ultimately fails to connect with the audience. At first, the plot’s unbelievability disconnects audiences. The paranormal occurrences are believable enough, but the mere fact that any school in the United States would ever recreate a play where a student died, coupled with the extremely unlikable character will quickly pull audiences out of the experience. The actors give relatively good performances, yet audiences will rejoice in their on-screen deaths. For example, the film commits several horror character cliches, including a douchbag athlete, a pompous cheerleader, a stereotypical male leader and an overblown theater geek. Still, the film has some really well done and truly frightening persecution sequences. These scenes give the film an interesting turn, but they don’t last long enough to engage audiences, and it only happens after over 40 min of anything remotely interesting.
On a side note, I would like to point out that the “found footage” genre suffers from lack of believability. At the end of the day, the plot device should service the story and the characters so that audiences can actually relate to what’s going on. It should feel seamless, yet “The Gallows” makes this feature more an issue than an asset.
In conclusion, “The Gallows” directed by Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff, doesn’t bring anything new or interesting to the genre. In a few words the movie involves irritating people running around in an auditorium. Unfortunately, that’s it, there’s no more to say.