Review: The Gallows
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Ah, found footage films, when will you fall out of fashion? I’ll admit, the found footage genre has its moments, and I am not quite yet in the camp that has sworn them off completely. Without this super-cheap, highly effective format, a lot of horror films might not ever see the light of day. Having the ability to shoot on a small, shoe-string budget, clever enough horror movies that would have typically been straight to DVD affairs are getting a new foothold. This is thanks to the gamble on the fact that the success rate on these flicks is pretty decent, and in the event that it doesn’t even do well at the box office, these cheap little scare fests can still turn a pretty good profit. I was actually more impressed when I dug in a little bit and found out that The Gallows wasn’t just a studio attempt at cashing in on the genre, but it was an actual passion project that just so happened to get picked up by recognizable names upon it’s first rounds out on the market. You may have seen the “Charlie Charlie” marketing campaign that went viral, about the same time they were trying to push a new franchise horror movie villain: “Charlie has his noose…” I wish the producers wouldn’t have tried so hard, and this may have found better footing as a sleeper hit, or a word-of-mouth film.
I liked it, but probably because I like horror films, clever new settings and places to be scared of. The setting of the majority of the film is an old High School at night, primarily the auditorium. I’m pretty sure that every High School older than 30 years has a story about how their drama department, stage, auditorium, etc. is haunted. This took me right back to all of the folklore surrounding my own school. A cursed play is being brought back on the 20th anniversary of a tragic accident that took the life of one of the young actors during a performance. Realistically, though, if a student accidentally hung themselves on stage while involved in an extra-curricular activity, that drama department would not only be non-existent, but absolutely any and all faculty involved would have been out of a job. They bring back the play anyway, and with it, the ghost of Charlie.
Now, at this point, if they had just left it at “The Ghost of Charlie” I would have had nothing but great things to say about this horror flick. For “shaky handheld cam footage” it’s actually shot pretty well, and the foreshadowing is solid. I was cheering for the ghost to win, as there is only one likable character in the bunch. I don’t hold it against the film, though—those were choices that were made and I can see why they all made sense. This may be a case where a producer or studio gets ahold of the source material and sees a marketing opportunity. It has been awhile since we had a good new serial killer in a series that becomes a multi-year franchise. This was not the film to try to bring in a new monster. The death of Charlie was tragic, but we are meant to believe that he’s out for revenge. No spoilers here, as even the trailers were set up to make us believe that Charlie is a brutal killer and no one is safe. Sadly, I think that a story focusing around a teen who died accidentally and stuck around the school is more eerie than a teen who died accidentally and is now inexplicably pissed and will possess and kill those who dare to … act? It tries to explain it, but the revenge angle is weak.
There are some good paranormal elements and some great jump scares in The Gallows. The atmosphere is eerie, and there were moments I had to pretend to be checking my email on my phone so I didn’t get too scared. You’ll enjoy it more the less you think about it. Take my advice—there is a moment that was the obvious original ending. It’s not life-altering, but it works and has a good blink-and-you’ll miss it visual. Turn off the DVD or Blu-Ray right at that exact moment or you will unfortunately see the most contrived, tacked on, all-loose-ends-tied-up ending that I have ever seen in a film since, well, Paranormal Activity. What a coincidence that the finished projects of great indie films were completed by the same people? Don’t hold it against them, just stop your viewing there, and enjoy it for what it is: A decent Halloween flick that will entertain, but won’t keep you up all night.