Film Review: The Gallows (2015)

the gallows

The Gallows is a found footage horror film, set in a high school in Middle America in 2013. A group of teens are staging a play, ‘The Gallows’, as part of their compulsory drama group. Ryan (Ryan Shoos) has a video camera and films the teens’ escapades; preparations for the play, cheerleader and football training and class activities. Ryan’s best friend Reece (Reese Mishler) has been cast in the production and is ditching training to attend rehearsals.

The play has not been performed at the school since 1993 when a student performer was accidentally hanged during the performance. The footage of his death is captured by eager parents filming their daughter in the play, footage which the opening prologue informs us is now police property. The drama group have decided to stage the play again after a twenty year break.

Ryan convinces Reece that the play needs to be sabotaged, that Reece will embarrass himself in front of his crush Pfeifer (Pfeifer Ross) and the entire school community if the play goes ahead. The boys formulate a plan, along with Ryan’s girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford), to break into the school after dark and trash the stage and sets.

Once inside the school, plans start to go awry. Pfeifer has joined them after seeing Reece’s car parked outside, and the four teens are trapped in the school building. Terrorised by an unknown entity, the teens try to make their way out of the school and back to the safety of the real world.

There is very little about The Gallows which is new or original. The haunted theatre and a cursed play are familiar tropes, the cavernous school building housing demented janitors are pretty well exhausted too. Really, how many tunnels and passageways can one school have? To complete the stereotype, the cute blonde is in tiny shorts, sporting cleavage and a ponytail, while her peers are rugged up in jeans and jackets.

The ‘found footage’ is simply too clear and professional to be believable. Even footage which is meant to be from Ryan’s phone appears to have been filmed using professional filmmaking equipment. Efforts to rough up the footage are more annoying than realistic. The use of actors real names for the characters is a poor attempt to give the film a currency of realism.

Mostly this film is simply annoying. The teens are completely idiotic, beyond what we have come to expect from the silver screen. Teens are often portrayed badly in film, usually depicted as reckless and foolish, but mostly with a goof-ish charm.   Here they are not only stupid, they are barely likable. In other films of a similar nature, there is some sense of affection for the characters. In this case, death can’t come soon enough.

Thankfully this is a very short film, so the torture is over relatively quickly. For those who enjoy horror generally, and found footage horror more specifically, this might be appealing. Although more likely it will be boring.

The Gallows is in Australian cinemas from 16 July through Roadshow Films.

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