The Gallows (Warner Brothers, PG-13)

The-Gallows 75The Gallows won’t even make you flinch, except perhaps to check the time.

 

 

 

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Twenty years after the lead actor in a school play is killed in a stage accident, the drama department puts on the production once more. Things go awry when a group of students decide to visit the set after hours.

This premise is not promising to begin with, I’ll admit. It is extremely unrealistic that any high school would put on a production that a student died performing in the past. That detail would be easy to overlook if the film offered any reason as to why the drama department wanted to do this, but it didn’t. Still, I held out hope for The Gallows. I was disappointed.

Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff, who wrote and directed The Gallows together, are among many filmmakers recently to utilize a variation on the found footage genre to throw the viewer into the action. To achieve this, one of the characters carries a camera around the entire time, and the audience watches the film through that camera lens (this method was most recently used in Project Almanac). This was a horrible choice for The Gallows. First of all, the characters are constantly calling attention to the camera—“let me hold that,” “it’s dark, we need the light on the camera to see,” “give me back the camera” as if watching the entire film from below eye level and an unsteady hand isn’t reminder enough of what they’re trying to do. Second, there are too many scenes where someone drops the camera, it goes spinning, and we see nothing but a blur of color and hear lots of breathing and screaming. The first scene where this happens may invoke some fear, but after the fourth time it just gives you a headache, and the sounds that are heard during these scenes are not enough for the audience to infer what is happening.

This is supposed to be a horror film, but aside from the occasional gasp at an unexpected loud noise, the audience spent the 80 minutes either laughing, or else verbally expressing confusion and annoyance.

Not enough time is spent with the characters to really care about their outcomes. Ryan (Eyan Shoos, Mud), the character who carries the camera most of the film, is unlikable right off the bat, and quickly becomes so irritating that the audience was actually rooting for his demise. The other characters are more likable, but their repeated bad decisions make that a moot point.

Looking at the actors’ and writer/directors’ resumes (fun fact: all of the characters have the same names as their actors), The Gallows seems to be the first large-scale, feature-length production for the lot of them, so viewing it as a first attempt makes it a lot better, but unfortunately the film remains forgettable.

It becomes more predictable with every passing scene, so the big reveal at the end loses all of its luster. Failing to keep the end a surprise, the film feels like it ends a good twenty minutes before the credits roll.

You know the kind of horror film where the character stands at the door to the basement, you scream at them not to go in, and then they go in? So now you don’t feel bad for them because they brought the craziness on themselves? If you like that kind of film, The Gallows is for you. If not, don’t waste your time. Especially if you want to be scared, because The Gallows won’t even make you flinch, except perhaps to check the time. | Samantha LaBat

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