The Gallows: Film Review
Cast: Reese Mishler, Pfifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Cassidy Gifford
Director: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing
The play's the thing in this found footage horror set in a small town school 20 years after a tragedy hit.
During the performance of a Crucible-like play called The Gallows, Charlie, one of the students was accidentally hanged - and now in honour of that anniversary, the play's being put on again. But on the eve of the show, three students from the current production creep into the hall to wreak havoc - however, it looks like a spirit haunting the building has other plans.
To say The Gallows is a feeble attempt at the horror genre is to undersell it.
Some utterly terrible acting from the main cast doesn't help matters; the worst offender being Reese Mishler whose array of acting seems to consist only looking horrified and wide-eyed when things go bump in the night as the phantoms of the opera play up.
But it's the way the story unfolds though its brief 81 minute run time and its characters that really make this revenge tale fall short of what it could do.
The teens are prone to dumb actions, shouting and fumbling around in the dark rather than ever using any of their sensibilities to help them get through. And to make matters worse, the high school stereotypes are something from the 80s with it divided up into jocks and nerds...
The found footage doesn't quite work either with lots of darkness, distortion and convenient lapses of logic dropped in thoughout - inevitably perhaps the directors and writers were using the low battery of the cameras to help provoke some dread, but when they fire up seconds later without any changes, it's clear they're making the rules up as they go along. (Plus, don't even get me started with the way it chops and changes - for a so-called found footage film, the spooky spirit sure does have a way with editing tools).
It's a shame because the premise is one to be mined - there's a neat twist in the middle that comes out of nowhere, and the idea of MacBeth level of superstition striking fear when people mention Charlie's name on stage is a clever updating of the worries actors have.
Things bang, shut and slam closed with the ferocity that you'd expect, but it all feels so piecemeal and uneventfully exciting, that even 81 minutes seems too long - The Gallows clearly wanted to launch a new boogeyman onto the scene with Hangman Charlie, but this sub-par Blair Witch wannabe should have been strung up before it even got started.