At a mere 81 minutes, “The Gallows” feels so stretched thin that it might just rip in half right on the screen. If you can’t sustain such a scant runtime, your movie is in trouble.
A brief runtime is the farthest from this movie’s worries. “The Gallows” is the latest movie to use the found footage conceit, something that once was so provocative and has grown so tired. In a rare moment of mild and fun success, this year’s “Unfriended” wasn’t so much found footage but was viewed entirely through the protagonist’s computer screen. It’s would-be gimmick made for a fun viewing. “The Gallows” never tries to transcend, it merely settles for going through the motions.
Making matters worse is the movie is so ineptly crafted and jarringly shot. Sometimes the movie is shocking in its ineptitude. So concerned with hammering home the found footage imagery, “The Gallows” ups the shakiness of the camera. We spend a lot of time running with the cast and looking at their feet and the ground or off to the side while a lot of the action is happening off screen. Is this an effective way to make the audience use their imagination as to what is occurring out of the frame? No, it’s just shoddy filmmaking.
The film begins with a high school production of “The Gallows”. During a pivotal scene, a student has a noose around his neck and something goes drastically wrong and he ends up dying. We see all of this action happen through a parent’s camcorder. This happened in 1993.
Twenty years later, the school is doing the same play on the anniversary of the student’s death (which is only slightly inappropriate, in my opinion). A member of the football team, Reese (Reese Mishler) is not much of an actor – in the play or this movie – but gets a lead role so he can get closer to his crush, Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown). His friend, Ryan (Ryan Shoos), films the rehearsals and constantly harasses his buddy for entering the theatre world. It’s just not cool, bro.
Reese doesn’t really want to be apart of the play but really likes Pfeifer. Ryan, the douchey dimwit he is, concocts the idea to sneak into the school at night to tear the sets down so the play will be canceled. Reese goes along with the plan, reluctantly, and he, Ryan and Ryan’s girlfriend, Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford), get into the school and wreak havoc on the sets. But, wait! Pfeifer, the dedicated high school actress, shows up for poorly explained reasons.
How does things play out? Well, you know. Things creak and crack, fall and move on their own. When there was 50 minutes left in the movie, not much had happened yet. “The Gallows” is numbingly dull and routine. Directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing try to amp up the scares by borrowing from movies they watched for inspiration to make this dud.
So, how fun is spending 81 minutes with a bunch of high school students? It’s like spending 81 minutes with a bunch of high school students.
‘The Gallows’ rates 2 out of 10