The Gallows was easily one of the worst, not to mention inane, films I’ve seen all year and it’s still perplexing how it even managed a major theatrical distribution when it was destined to DTV and/or VOD. Shame really as the technical details, though the video is hard to judge considering the found footage style, isn’t half bad while the bonus material is merely so-so.
Warner Bros. | R – 81 min. – $44.95 | October 13, 2015
THE MOVIE – 0.5/5
Every so often a movie comes around where I have to asked God, “why?” As much as I loathe the found footage subgenre, The Gallows manages to break new ground in awfulness to the point, by film’s end, utter stupidity. Despite the 75-minute running time (sans credits), it felt so much longer and the first 25-minutes, as oft happens with found footage, is mere set-up, introducing back story and the main characters. Those minutes, however, were utterly dull and I couldn’t have cared less about any of these characters.
The Gallows opens in Beatrice, Nebraska, 1993 with the taping of a stage play of the same name where one member, Charlie playing Author, valiantly steps up into the noose and due to a malfunction, gets hung in real life and dies. Mass panic ensues among the astonished crowd. Fast forward 20 years (yep this takes place in 2013), with the “Property of Blah Blah Police Department” label since this is footage found after the fact, we are introduced to a variety of characters from nerds, jocks, cheerleaders and a few in between.
We are focused on four individuals: Ryan (RYAN SHOOS), the primary cameraman, best friend Reese (REESE MISHLER) who was roped (no pun intended, really) into performing the latest version of “The Gallows” stage play, Ryan’s hot cheerleader girlfriend Cassidy (CASSIDY GIFFORD) and Pfeifer (PFEIFER BROWN), the female lead/diva of the play and Reese’s uber-crush and reason for even doing the play.
One problem: Reese is awful and Ryan comes up with the idea to get his bud out of the gig: break into the school via an unlocked door, wreck the set thus the play will have to be canceled. So, the two stooges and cheergirl Cassidy set out to do just that and while there, and I guess out of plot convenience or something, Pfeifer also is there and is none too pleased with Ryan. Things even become more chaotic when the previously cannot be locked door is suddenly locked as are every other avenue of escape. Electricity is also off, phone lines are down and of course their cell phones cannot receive service. All the obstacles (tropes) are in full effect.
Using only the light from the camera, they guide their way through hallways trying to escape as an apparent evil force, as called out in joking fashion earlier by class clown Reese, is with them playing all sorts of tricks and pluck each of them one by one visa vi a noose.
I can’t stress this enough: I hated The Gallows. It’s not just that it’s dumb but add in an all around boring film and the latest in the found footage horror film, each one really indistinguishable from the next, and one has to wonder who thought making this a wide theatrical release – as it was initially an independent flick prior to being co-financed by Bloomhouse and distributed by Warner Bros – was a good idea. It’s poorly made, though doesn’t look bad and the acting bordered on obnoxious especially Reese who within the first few minutes you want to punch in the face. On the plus side, Pfeifer Brown wasn’t too bad and might’ve been the most likeable of the bunch (not saying much, I guess).
On the downside: these characters, albeit “teenagers”, are dumb as bricks from the get-go filming their vandalizing the stage (that said, the adults are no better for putting on a play where a student was killed and putting up gallows with absolutely no safety precautions). I know teens do stupid things, but that takes the cake. On the other hand, it’s a minor detail in a film with far larger problems. For one, the villain of Charlie isn’t scary and when he does appear, in spurts, he’s not that scary and the camera tricks employed by the filmmakers, such as having him creep into the dim light behind one of the characters doesn’t do it. And to these horror directors, making things loud doesn’t make it scary or frightening. Sometimes it works in moderation (see the original Halloween) unfortunately it’s employed liberally in so many of modern slasher/horror. Apparently patience is no longer a virtue.
The film was co-written/co-produced/co-edited and co-directed by Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff and while I can appreciate the independent student film finding success like The Gallows did, the final product made for an all around bad movie, joining the ranks of other recent horror flicks like Unfriended and Ouija. Sadly it did make $38M worldwide on a paltry $100k budget so I’m sure the studio will churn out a quick and cheap sequel…
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.5/5
This release comes with a matted slip cover. Inside is a standard def DVD Copy and a redemption code for the Digital HD copy.
The Gallows: The Original Version (1:20:52; HD) is the film (guerrilla style) that sold some producers at Blumhouse and Entertainment 360 to make this a theatrical release with some tweaks and reshoots.
The Gallows: Surviving the Noose (17:20; HD) – This is an interview with Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff conducted by Producer Jason Blum.
Charlie: Every School Has Its Spirit (9:44; HD) is a featurette to the monstrous villain.
Deleted Scenes (18:17; HD) – There are 12 scenes, including two alternate endings, included. As you can imagine, there’s nothing here of real note, more footage adding “character” moments (i.e. Ryan acting like a jackass).
Gag Reel (7:45; HD)
Under Trailers we get the Concept Trailer (2:42; HD) that sold investors on the project, Original Version Trailer (2:48; HD) and the Theatrical Trailer (1:38; HD).
VIDEO – 4.0/5
The Gallows swings, and sways, on Blu-ray presented with a 1.78 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. As with most of these found footage flicks, it’s a bit hard to judge considering it employs the shaky-cam style but from what I could tell, detail was pretty good, better than anything one would record on a standard video camera, and colors appear to be good while the bulk of the film takes place in the dark, we do get splashes of red to provide some supposed dread and atmosphere.
AUDIO – 4.75/5
For whatever reason, this movie gets the new Dolby Atmos track which, for receivers unable to decode, will output TrueHD 7.1. It might be some overkill (pun intended here), but there’s some nice depth with the blood-curdling screams taking up the bulk of the audio for the third act. Dialogue otherwise sounds clear enough and the generic music and score makes the most out of the rear speakers.
OVERALL – 2.0/5
Overall, The Gallows was easily one of the worst, not to mention inane, films I’ve seen all year and it’s still perplexing how it even managed a major theatrical distribution when it was destined to DTV and/or VOD. Shame really as the technical details, though the video is hard to judge considering the found footage style, isn’t half bad while the bonus material is merely so-so. This is one that can be skipped, it can’t even muster in the so bad its good territory.
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.