It’s hard to believe that, as we approach the end of 2015, there are still filmmakers out there that think that the “found footage” gimmick is still a cool thing to do. What started as an interesting concept back in 1999 with the overrated “The Blair Witch Project,” quickly became old hat as a multitude of writers and directors tried to put their own spin on it, leading to numerous terrible knock-offs that flooded the market for about the next decade. Luckily, despite a few layovers from this forgettable era of dime-a-dozen horror flicks of this nature, the trend finally started to drop off a few years ago. Unfortunately it would appear that writers/directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing didn’t get the memo, and so, with their feet planted firmly in the past, these two have decided to put their own spin on the same old tiresome concept in yet another “found footage” flick entitled “The Gallows.”
The film begins by showing us events from 20 years ago, in which a terrible tragedy happened during a school play, resulting in the accidental hanging of one of the students. In the present day, the school has decided to put on the same play (“The Gallows”), starring a football player of all people, Reese (Reese Mishler), and the girl he has a secret crush on, Pfeifer (Pfeifer Ross). Reese’s friend Ryan (Ryan Shoos) continually mocks the play and eventually comes up with a way to get him out of working on it, which involves sneaking into the school after dark through a conveniently broken door and destroying the set. Ryan and Reese come back to the school that night, along with Ryan’s girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford), and just happen to run into Pfeifer. They all try to leave together, but find that they are locked inside, and worse yet, they find that they aren’t exactly alone.
“The Gallows” is the exact kind of film that is the result of two exceedingly lazy filmmakers trying to make a quick buck. On one end of the scale, you have the very fact that they didn’t even bother to come up with original names for their characters, while on the other, it becomes painfully clear that they didn’t put even one iota of thought into the film’s half-baked and tedious story, and that’s not to mention that what they did throw together for the film’s foundation was just cobbled together from other “found footage” horror films.
However, that’s just the beginning of where the film goes so horribly wrong. Building on top of what is a weak and flimsy foundation is the issue of it being rather incompetently made. Having a “found footage” film where you can at least see what is going on is one thing, but having one where most of the footage is in night vision and jostling around for much of it is another. How is a viewer supposed to become even remotely scared when they can’t tell what’s going on for large portions at a time? It would appear that the filmmakers mistakenly thought that the more the camera shook, the scarier it would be, but in reality all this does is make the audience frustrated (and some of them probably nauseous).
It would be easy to go on and on about its long list of issues, including a tremendously uninspired “villain” (the spirit of the deceased student from 20 years earlier) and exceptionally poor performances, but it should suffice it to say that practically everything in the film doesn’t work. This is a film where it should have been pretty clear on a day to day basis that it just wasn’t coming together and simply wasn’t having the effect that Cluff and Lofing were hoping for. I would say that it just needed to go back to the drawing board for some fundamental repairs, but that would merely give false hope that it could be fixed. “The Gallows” needed to be tossed out in its entirety and replaced with an entirely different project.
For a film like “The Gallows,” it’s rather hard to judge video quality, quite simply because it’s presented as “found footage” from various cameras, so it’s not going to look particularly good no matter how sharp the picture is. That being said, the first part of the film is much less shaky and much brighter than the latter two-thirds, allowing us to see that the 1.85:1, 1080p High Definition transfer is of decent quality before it becomes completely irrelevant. On the other hand, the 5.1 Dolby Atmos audio is excellent straight through the entire film, allowing you to hear all of the dialogue and creepy noises in high quality. Overall, taking into consideration the way in which the film is presented, I suppose you could say that this is the best treatment that it’s going to be able to get.
The Original Version (81 Minutes): This is the original film that caught the eye of producers, who wanted to remake it with a bigger budget. It’s different footage, but the same scenario, so just like it’s big screen remake, it’s tiresome and tedious to sit through.
Surviving the Noose (17 Minutes): An interview with writers/directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing in which the background of the project is discussed. If you want to know how this whole thing got started, then you may find it of interest.
Charlie: Every School Has Its Spirit (10 Minutes): A very superficial look at the film’s vengeful spirit.
Deleted Scenes (18 Minutes): A large helping of deleted material that was thankfully cut from the final film.
Gag Reel (8 Minutes): A collection of unfunny material shot on and off the set.
“The Gallows” is a lazy and incompetent production on just about every level, from the writing and directing to the acting and the camerawork. There is not a shred of originality, and certainly not any scares, to be found in this heavily-lacking “found footage” mess that merely comes off as a worse-than-usual direct-to-DVD release that somehow found its way onto the big screen. There’s a reason why so few filmmakers bother to try to tackle this so-called genre anymore: it’s all been done, and that’s not even to mention that it didn’t work particularly well in the first place. If the writers/directors of “The Gallows” didn’t know this before, we can only hope that they do now.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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