Twenty years after an accident caused the death of the lead actor during a high school play, students at the same small town school resurrect the failed stage production in a misguided attempt to honor the anniversary of the tragedy - but ultimately find out that some things are better left alone.
In the film, THE GALLOWS, tragedy struck Beatrice High, in the small town Beatrice Nebraska, when during a high school production of a play called "The Gallows", a young understudy, named Charlie Grimille, unexpectedly died by hanging, because of a prop malfunction. Since then, the subject, as well as the play, has been a sore subject for the town. However, regardless of the tragic history, Beatrice High, 10 years later, is ready to resurrect the production. The new production is taking shape, and in the starring role of "August", is football star, Reese. Reese isn't really into it, as he is not truly the acting type. He just signed up to get closer to his crush, a girl named Pfeifer. However, it doesn't take long for the pressure of his friends to get to him, which soon has Reese looking for a way out. That is when his friend, Ryan comes up with a plan. A plan that sees Reese, and a few of his friends breaking into the school at night, in order to sabotage the play. Things move forward, as when night falls the kids arrive at the school, and enter through a back door that is rarely locked. Initially the fun and games go off without a hitch, but of course, things do not remain that way. Because it would appear that they are not alone, and that someone is waiting in the wings, looking to take them out. Thereby avenging Charlie's death, which occurred 10 years prior.
Anyone who is a Horror fan knows it by now. The point-of-view style of film making, in which things play out in front of the audience as if the film is the product of "lost" of "found" footage". Whatever you choose to call them, they usually, always tend to feel the same, and in terms of the present, they are becoming a little too common these days. I mean, when a film like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT came out in 1999, it was something new and inventive. It was something that we rarely saw, and because of this, it made a lot of box office money. Good for film, but bad for the audience, because in the years since, we have had to endure numerous copy-cat films. Films looking to cash in on the craze, much like the abundance of Slasher films that came out in the 80s. following the success of films like FRIDAY THE 13TH. In the years following THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, there have been some really bad "found footage" films. Some that I have had to struggle through, in order to review them here on The Terror Hook Review, and others, that I have simply ignored, because I am just not a fan of the format. Of the ones that I have never seen(and have no plans of seeing any time soon), are the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films. A series produced by Blumhouse, who just so happens to be the producer for THE GALLOWS.
However, knowing my dislike for this type of film, from the beginning, I chose to approach THE GALLOWS with an open mind. Because who knows? It could have been one of the few films of the type, to change my mind. Because, after all, CHRONICLE was one such film to do so. I love that film. But unfortunately, when speaking of THE GALLOWS, it just was not meant to be. Why? Because I felt that THE GALLOWS was just a further exercise of the same old crap. Everything utilized within is tired, and played out. From it's look, it's scares, to its attempt to feel "real", it's all been done, and it's all been seen by us many times over, before. In a bit of backstory, THE GALLOWS started as an indie film project in 2012 by the film's two Directors,Travis Cluff, and Chris Lofing. The Directors, who did everything themselves, created a feature length movie, which gained attention from big wigs, who eventually threw a little money at them, in order to remake the earlier film, except on a much bigger scale. I'll admit, the story is quite admirable, as it is what every independent filmmaker dreams of. Which is why it's really unfortunate that nothing was done to truly capitalize on the opportunity given. The original film from 2012, also of the same title, is included on the Blu-Ray, in it's original form. But. despite a few changes, such as dates and a few scenes, it's almost the exact same movie. So, in short, despite the big studio interest, more money and a guaranteed Theatrical run, you mean to tell me, that all that these filmmakers were able to do was retrace their steps, almost move for move, and in the EXACT same style? Before you begin to watch the original film, on the disc, Cluff, and Lofing, are quick to warn you that it is rough and in a more "Guerrilla style" of film making. So, I was like, "Oh, ok, so it will look a little cheaper, and show some level of inexperience. Cool" So in other words, what I was expecting was a logical "before and after" comparison type of thing. But what it showed me was, instead, was that the big studio version of THE GALLOWS is nothing but a big, polished up scam, designed to take our money. There is nothing all that different about the style of filmmaking, despite being warned of such. It is essentially the same film, with a few slight changes here and there. Yes, it has been reshot here, but technically the 2 films are nearly indentical, demonstrating very little improvement on the part of the film makers.
When it comes to the film itself, to it's credit, THE GALLOWS does have an ok premise, although we have also seen similar to it elsewhere. The idea that a High School play is cursed after a cast member died in a previous production is interesting enough for a Horror film, as is it's conclusion. However, I feel that the whole found footage element added in, sort of both hinders and crushes any potential that it might have had otherwise, simply because there is just only so much that can be done with "found footage" logically. The film begins by letting us know that what we are seeing is actually footage that was recovered by the Beatrice Police. Footage which was shot mostly by Ryan, a High School student. For whatever reason, Ryan annoyingly carries around a digital camcorder, in order to film his friends. Whether it be taping his friend Reese's play rehearsals, hoping to catch failure on "tape". in the locker room, or wherever he may be. So naturally, he brings the camera along for the ride, when he and others break into the school. Miraculously, the camera stays intact and on, even through the most harrowing times. THE GALLOWS matches many of the failures of many of the other "found footage" films, as it is not always logical that the camera would still be on at all times - yet it is. It is one of those things that is just really silly. I mean, at one point, our characters are frantic, and scared for their lives, but even still, someone still has the wherewithal, to still operate the camera. I know it's a movie and all. But in a real situation, one is likely to say "fuck the camera. I'm out of here!" This type of thing happens in all of these films, and it's just stupid. A camera is still recording even in the most impossible of moments. But besides these instances, THE GALLOWS, is just more of the same kind of running, screaming, and unseen villain type stuff we always see. Most of the film's action occurs off screen, or otherwise out of view. There are many instances where we aren't quite sure what we are seeing, as the view results in a dark and shaky mess. Who wants to sit through this stuff? Not me.
So, to cut through the mess here, I will say that the story that is at the core of THE GALLOWS, is ok, yet is far from special. It could have been still somewhat respectable. Unfortunately it is weighed down by its gimmick, and the attempt by the two Writer/Directors to be impressively crafty. Something that THE GALLOWS is anything but. THE GALLOWS in itself, is no more than an indie script, that was influenced by its forefathers of "found footage", that just so happened to catch the attention of someone with pull in the industry. While many worthwhile films and filmmakers await their chance to shine, THE GALLOWS comes along to do absolutely nothing, but to further replicate a tired formula.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
Since the film market is so saturated by these types of films now, each time that a new one comes out, not many get too excited. It's because "found footage" has become the dead horse of the genre. The subject has been beaten to a bloody pulp by now. But sometimes, yes we do get lucky and get a CHRONICLE out of the whole thing. However, CHRONICLE this is not. THE GALLOWS is simply a simple Slasher/ghost story dressed up under the guise of the "found footage" gimmick. It's the type of film that should have went the way of direct to video, only to be forgotten about. But instead it is a film that has been undeservingly championed by a big studio, therefore many will see it. But that does not mean that many will like it. I would not recommend this one as there is very little distinguishable about it. Don't believe the hocus pocus of clever marketing.
Special Features include :
- The Gallows: The Original Version
- The Gallows: Surviving the Noose
- Charlie: Every School Has Its Spirit
- Deleted Scenes
- Gag Reel
- Concept, Original Version and Theatrical Trailers
Own The Gallows on Blu-ray Combo Pack or DVD on October 13 or Own It Early on Digital HD Now.