I think at this point found footage horror needs to go on a little hiatus before coming back with newer wide-release horror films. They all act and feel the same, not many are standing out from one another. The most recent found footage horror movie, “The Gallows” feels more of the same and wastes what was a good setting and potential story.
The story of “The Gallows” follows the production of a high school play called the Gallows. This is the first time the play has been done at the school since 1993. The ’93 production led to the tragic accidently death of a fellow student named Charlie where he was hung by a prop mishap. Now the play is to be resurrected 20 years later on the anniversary of the event with inadequate actor in the lead role, Reese. His friend Ryan suggests that they sneak into the school at night and trash the set so the play would be canceled and Reese would avoid having to do that play. Reese agrees to do it with Ryan, his girlfriend (and a surprise playmate) show up at the school at night when it becomes apparent the spirits of that original play have never left the school.
This movie’s script reads more like a barebones story outline that is given to someone when they need to give a summery for class. The story only jumps from plot point to plot point but doesn’t seem to want to explore anything. Even little things in the story that are essentially glossed over for the sake of time (or just pure laziness). First of all there is NOOO school board in America that would approve of redoing a play that had a student killed 20 years earlier. But, I’m willing to roll with it for the sake of the movie’s plot. Yet I can’t help but wonder why there was no media coverage or discussion about the accident or even old school legends that the classmates came up with concerning the accident? Horror movies are such a good platform to discuss topics and in the era of school tragedies that we live in this could be ripe for such substance.
I digress though let’s talk about the movie that is actually at hand and not the one I wish I had. The set up with the school tragedy hooked me immediately. The way it was filmed, shot and how the audience reacted to the death of this high school felt real and haunting. I thought to myself….maybe there is more to his movie than I previously thought? It’s a brilliant way to open a movie.
After that though the movie sadly declines into typical found footage and teenage slasher movie tropes. The jock, the nice guy, the slut and the nice girl; all the characters are not characters, they are cardboard. Something the filmmakers found shopping and used for the film. There is nothing remarkable or even likeable about these characters. There couldn’t be a better reason for why they were in the school at night? Immediately once the script sets up these teens to head to the school for vandalism you’re fighting an uphill battle to make me care about their stories.
I should correct myself there is something remarkable about one of these characters. That is the character of Ryan. The most remarkable thing about this character is just how obnoxious, unlikeable, unfunny, and how uncaring he actually is. Every time he opens his mouth you’ll be wishing they sewed it shut like they did to Deadpool in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”. If there was an Academy Award for most annoying character I’d put him ahead of Jar-Jar Binks, he’s that annoying.
By now I’m starting to believe we have seen just about everything we can see from the found footage format. It was at one part refreshing and different but by now we’ve seen just about every trick in the books to the point that I feel like I’ve gotten it down to a science. You know when the jump scares are coming, you know when the camera is pointed a certain direction what’s going to happen. This is the type of film that would have benefited from freeing itself from that format and make it a regular cinematic horror movie. An empty dark school at night is already creepy enough, in the right hands and a good musical score you’d have a truly scary atmosphere. It’s a shame that the found footage format is only hindering the movie.
As it stands this film is just not scary. This movie consists of standard loud noise jump scares. Some are false scares (which honestly does little for me and just pisses me off) and some are suppose to be “real” scares that are just ineffective. In all honesty though there are a few jump scares that did make me jump. Then again one or two scares in a 80 minute movie isn’t a good ratio to have.
Then of course the ending twist is predictable. It tries to be clever but when you step back and think about it, it doesn’t work. “The epilogue” (if you will) of the film feels like it’s from a totally different movie. Plus the ending feels like just like a standard “one last scare” that so many other horror movies do. This all being said I have seen worse found footage horror movies recently and this isn’t quite as bad as some of those like “V/H/S: Viral” or “Devil’s Due” but that’s the best compliment I can give.