The Gallows Review

The Gallows the found footage horror film from Producer Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, Sinister, and Whiplash), written and directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing. Starring Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, and Cassidy Gifford. In 1993, a high school in Nebraska stages a play, “The Gallows”, and during the production of this play, the student in the lead role dies in an accident involving a malfunctioning prop. Twenty years later in 2013 the same school plans to stage a new production of “The Gallows”. On the night prior to the opening of the play the characters played by Mishler, Shoos, and Gifford enter the school to destroy the play’s set and then the horror ensues.

The Gallows suffers from the same weakness that every other found footage horror film does, that it lacks a strong, cohesive narrative. The story of the movie fails in two places; one is that it does not go into the motivations of the killer. Throughout the film, you are wondering why the killer is doing this, and at no point are his motivations explained. The second point of narrative failure is that film does not tie up. The film just ends and when combined with the first point of failure as an audience member leaves you wondering why? Because the film lacks a strong narrative, the film unclear as to whether the killer is supposed to be from the paranormal or maybe supposed to be someone who is a real living person. There are points in the film that could support either case. I would have been nice to know for sure. Although, I do not know if the narrative is structured in this way because Blum plans to produce a sequel if that is the case then the story fails for being an obvious sequel set up. While that would be a negative for this film, if that were what Blum is planning then he already has my money for it because I wanted to know what the hell was going on in this movie.

While The Gallows indeed suffers from some failures, there are a few strengths of the film. One of these strengths is Pfeifer Brown; she was good in the film. Granted the bar for acting performances in a horror film is not that high, many horror films contain performances that are more horrifying than the film. Brown is not winning any awards for it, but watching her, you can tell that the girl has chops. The next strength of this film was the way that the film used the perspectives from different cameras. There was the main camera, a cell phone camera and in one scene the camera from the stages sound booth. There are a few scenes where when the perspective camera changes the narrative backtracks just a little bit to give a more detailed account of the events of the film. However, this does not clear up the confusing parts of the narrative. The perspective shift in The Gallows helped feel less stale than just having a fixed perspective point. I thought that the greatest strength in The Gallows was that the plot was not predictable. I am not talking about the standard horror stuff, i.e. this scene is not going to end well for that person, the killer is going to get her in this scene, and here is where the killer shows up. When it comes to horror films if you watch enough of them you will always be able to pick out those kinds of moments. Horror, generally speaking, is just that kind of film genre where if you have seen one then you have seen them all. I am talking about twists that come up in the plot that move it along. There two major plot twists in the film that I did not see coming at all. One of them I do not recall being foreshadowed at all. The other one is somewhat foreshadowed, but the full reveal is still something that catches you off guard.

Overall, all The Gallows suffers from a messy, unclear plot, although it does throw some surprises at you. The Gallows gets a 2.5/5, an extra half a point because the whole killer roaming the theater plot reminds me of one of my favorite musicals, The Phantom of the Opera. Did you see The Gallows, if so what did you think? Leave your thoughts, opinions, and insights in the comments below.   

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