The production of The Gallows is so amateur, I imagine current high school drama departments probably do a better job. The script reads like what an adult who is not familiar with teens would imagine how they talk and think, so it comes across as plastic. Both of the directors, Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing, are also the writers, two of the producers, and involved in editing and visual effects. Blatant manipulations like cheap tricks are used to instill fear (jumpy hand-held camera, sudden loud noises, heads popping up, blank screen, and comments such as, “This place is super creepy at night.”). Among the actors, Shoos is convincing, but an early scene with Mishler and Brown is painful to watch in its flatness.
The story has to do with a previous high school production years ago of “The Gallows” in which a tragic accident occurred involving the main actor. Through some kind of misguided notions, the high school is repeating the play with the next generation of students. Ryan (Shoos), who has a camera constantly in hand, is filming the production and all the behind-the-scenes chatter. Moreover, he is a spoiler who nags and nags Reese (Houser) to quit the play, and when he’s unsuccessful in that, tries to get him to sabotage it. Using twisted logic, he eventually convinces Reese, and a plan is conceived. Cassidy (Gifford) is standing by and insists on being included.
When the plan is put into place and the three are carrying it out in the drama building, stranger and stranger things begin to happen, including the appearance of the star of the play, Pfeifer (Brown), who is kept in the dark (pun intended) about what is actually going on. Reese has told her that they are there simply for him to practice his lines. Of course, as the evening wears on, the horrors escalate and things go from bad to worse.
The film is difficult to follow at times, partly because the visual effects are so pronounced they obscure what is happening to the characters, or the sound effects drown out the dialog. There is little done to set up the conflicts that occur. For example, it’s not at all clear why Ryan seems to have a bone to pick with Pfeifer, which is why he is bent on sabotaging a project that means so much to her, but we’re never told why. Cassidy also seems to have it in for Pfeifer, but it’s unclear why. A completing irritating motif of the film is one character calling out the name of another: “Reese, Reese, Reese”, “Cassidy, Cassidy, Cassidy.” This wasn’t just to locate them but to nag them into doing something they don’t want to, especially in the beginning when Ryan is trying to get Reese to drop out or sabotage the play.
Perhaps those fans of horror who are not mindful of certain qualities will find this film scarily exciting. I did not.
The enjoyment of this movie depends on how willing you are to be drawn in.
Grade: F By Donna R. Copeland